By Katie Dudlets
The Meridian Times Staff Reporter
In Michigan, the number of students in schools of choice increased from 66,560 in 2005-06 to 115,209 in 2012-13, an upsurge of 73 percent. Schools of choice enrollment also made up a larger percentage of the state’s overall student population, rising from 3.7 percent of 1.8 million students in 2005-06, to 7.1 percent of 1.6 million students in 2012-13. Administrators in Meridian Township are seeing a similar trend. “We do have many students that are interested and go ahead and make applications for schools of choice for Haslett [High School], and not only Haslett, but for Haslett Public Schools,” said Haslett High School Principal Bart Wegenke. “I think we’re probably about 18 to 20 percent schools of choice [students] for this district.”
According to Joshua Cowen, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Administration at Michigan State University, this increase in the program’s popularity is not only a trend in Michigan, but in the nation as well.
Statistics show Okemos High School tops Haslett High School in state and national ranking, despite their proximity. While the academic environment of Okemos High School outperforms Haslett High School, both schools remain better than both the state and national averages. According to U.S. News, Okemos High School maintains its position as the 10th best high school in the state of Michigan, while being 494th in the country. Haslett High School ranks 38th in the state and 1,176th in the nation. Both schools fall under the jurisdiction of Meridian Township as public schools and are just over five miles apart from each other.
In the barrage of budget proposals, school funding bills and teacher retirement benefit reforms, Michigan residents help explain the current state of Michigan education. The Proposed Budget
Although Gov. Rick Snyder proposed a $75 per pupil increase in his budget, Okemos Public Schools director of finance Robert Clark said the fixed cost of foundation allowances does not account for natural cost increases in schools. The foundation allowance, which combines local and state funds and allocates a per pupil amount to each school district, is $8,099 per student in Okemos schools. Clark said that if the enrollment in Okemos schools did not continue to increase, as it currently is, the schools could not remain “above water.”
Clark said that dependance on foundation allowances leads to the inability to offset natural increasing costs like inflation, insurance premiums and contractual teacher pay increases. The Okemos school district was already facing budget cuts that forced it to freeze teachers’ salaries and pensions, search for less experienced—and cheaper—teachers and reduce health care quality and coverage.
School safety has been a very important topic in government. Meridian township has taken that a step further. In a press release by Meridian Township the state of Michigan awarded Meridian more than $19,000 for school safety. One way safety can be attained is by reducing response times of emergency officials. According to the press release, that is where the money of this grant will go.