East Lansing School Board Backs Proposal 2 in 4-3 Vote

Tuesday, September 25, 2018, 1:19 pm
By: 
Karessa Wheeler

East Lansing High School senior Benjamin Rose speaks in favor of Proposition 2 before the ELPS School Board Monday night.

The East Lansing Schools Board of Trustees has put its support behind a proposed state constitutional amendment to end the gerrymandering of Michigan’s Congressional districts on Monday.

The move was initiated by Trustee Erin Graham, who said Proposal 2 has a direct impact on education because the current system removes the voices from voters who care about schools.

“Politicians are not being held accountable to voters. Voters support public education and support public schools. They feel more accountable to big money than to our students or our families,” Graham said.

On Nov. 6, Michigan voters will be asked whether to create an independent citizen commission to rewrite the Congressional and legislative districts for the State. The group Voters Not Politicians won the right to put it on the ballot earlier this year.

Three citizens also spoke in support of the Board’s resolution endorsing Proposal 2, which has also been endorsed by the Michigan Education Association and the Michigan Association of School Boards.

Benjamin Rose, a senior at East Lansing High School, said gerrymandering makes young voters feel like their voices are not heard and that leads to them becoming apathetic and not voting.

“Anyone in education should take a stance for Proposition 2,” Rose said.

Also speaking in favor of the resolution were School Board candidates Kath Edsall and Thasin Sardar.

Voting in favor of the resolution were Trustees Nell Kuhnmuench, Graham, Karen Hoene and Terah Chambers. Voting against the resolution were Trustees Nichole Martin, Hillary Henderson and President Kate Powers.

“I don’t feel it directly affects our schools or our Board,” Henderson said. “My concern is of precedent. I do think this is political and to what end?”

Also on the East Lansing ballot this fall will be the election of four members of the Board of Education. Chambers and Powers are running for re-election while Hoene and Kuhnmuench are leaving the Board. Along with Edsall and Sardar, other candidates are Noel Garcia and Chris Martin. Todd Swales will still appear on the ballot, but he has told East Lansing Info that he is “no longer actively campaigning for this position.”

On Monday, Superintendent Dori Leyko also reported that two millage proposals will be on the ballot as well. The District is asking for a 10-year operating millage of 22 mills to offset “Headlee roll backs” to ensure the District receives its full per-pupil funding from the State. This applies to non-homestead property only – principal residences are exempt – and would generate $9.7 million for the School District. Without the Operating Millage, the District’s foundation allowance would drop from $8,289 per pupil to $5,596 per pupil.

The District is also requesting a reduction to its sinking fund millage from the current sinking fund of 1.277 down to 1.0 mill. This would generate $1.1 million annually for building repairs and renovations, site improvements, school security and instructional technology. While the ballot language will read as if it is an increase, Leyko stressed that it was actually a reduction but was written in a way to allow the District to use the funds for instructional technology and school security. Informational brochures on both millage proposals will be going out to residents soon, Leyko said.

Also at the meeting Monday, Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, Glen Mitcham, presented MSTEP and SAT data for 2018. He reported that East Lansing has no under-performing or failing schools. On average, East Lansing’s scores are above those of Ingham County and the State as a whole.

“ELPS scores are strong compared to equally diverse districts,” he told the Board.

However, Mitcham said the administration will be looking closely at the data which shows a “huge gap” in scores between economically disadvantaged and economically advantaged students.

“If you ask me where our work is, it is right here,” Mitcham said. “This is where we need to continue to find ways to break ground in this area.”

He noted that while the gap remains, the district has seen a 9 percent increase in English proficiency for economically disadvantaged students from 2017 to 2018 and a 21 percent increase in math proficiency.

“I am excited to report that. We will keep watching that and paying attention to that,” he said.

In other news Monday night:

  • Dave Nielson of Maner Costerisan, P.C. presented the audited financial statements for the past fiscal year for the District. The audit shows that the June 30, 2018 General Fund balance is $5,101,105 or an increase of $643,905 from the prior year. The ending fund balance is an increase over the final budget revision by $255,284 or .66 percent of actual expenditures. The Board voted unanimously to accept the audit.
  • The Board approved a joint French-Spanish course trip to France and Spain in summer of 2019. Teachers Kimberly Floyd and Rachel Gehres asked to take their language students to Barcelona and Paris over nine days.
  • The Board also approved an updated Suicide Awareness and Prevention Policy following the recommendation of the Mental Health Advisory Committee. Committee chair Jen Novello said the new policy will allow the District to be more preventative toward suicide and promote health mental health.

 

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