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Flint schools' deficit plan relies on retaining students

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Steve Carmody
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Michigan Radio

The Flint school board last night approved a plan to eliminate its $20.4 million deficit.  

But the plan relies on the district being able to do something it has struggled to do:  retain students.

The Flint school district delivers its revised deficit elimination plan to the state Department of Education tomorrow.  The plan calls for zeroing out a $20.4 million deficit by the end of 2021.    

The district has been working under a plan to eliminate about $10 million in debt by 2018. But recently the district discovered another $10 million of debt. The new plan basically extends the current plan by three additional years.  

District officials plan to use projected budget surpluses to pay down the deficit. The district has laid off employees and outsourced jobs to create the surplus. The cuts should save the district about $3 million a year.

“What we want to do is put the focus on teachers and our students,” says Larry Watkins, Flint’s interim school superintendent, “so that they can have the resources that our students need to be college or career ready.”

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Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio
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Michigan Radio
“What we want to do is put the focus on teachers and our students,” says Larry Watkins, Flint’s interim schools superintendent.

But Flint schools must stabilize student enrollment to make the plan work. That could be a challenge for a district that has lost thousands of students in recent years.

The district is planning an aggressive campaign in August to attract and retain students for the upcoming school year. 

“We have a number of strengths in our district,” says Isaiah Oliver, Flint Board of Education president. “We have very caring administrators. Loving teachers who do an exceptional job.”

The State Department of Education must approve the district’s latest deficit elimination plan. State education officials have 30 days to review the plan.  

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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