As a parent in the Chelsea School District, I know pretty much everyone with school aged children is currently struggling with the same question – how are we going to educate our kids in the fall? The uncertainty of COVID-19 guarantees that we won’t have a normal school year, and it will be up to each of us as parents to choose the option that’s best for us and our families. As we all work to figure out what that option is, I’m appealing to my fellow Chelsea parents: please consider maintaining your child’s enrollment in the Chelsea School District to preserve state funding for our schools.
To be clear, I’m not advocating for or against in-person learning. I applaud Chelsea Schools for making it clear that there will be an option for 100% remote learning for any family that wants to go that route, regardless of what in-person or hybrid options may also be available. This means that kids will be able to stay enrolled in the school but never set foot in a school building. As parents consider the scenario where their kids are learning completely from home, I know some are also weighing their options to see what other online learning programs or curriculums are out there. But because of the way schools are funded in Michigan, if a parent disenrolls their child from the school completely, the District will lose around $7,438 in state funding for that child.
The vast majority of the funding for Chelsea Schools comes from the state – for the coming school year, almost $17 million to be exact (this is already a reduction of $2.7 million versus last year due to state funding cuts). To look at an example scenario, if a quarter of families decided to disenroll their kids for the coming school year, our schools would lose around $4.25 million in funding. And to be clear, our taxes aren’t lowered by that amount (or any amount) – that money just goes out of our community to other places in the state. The funding we would lose is enough to pay the salaries of more than half the teachers. If faced with this kind of funding loss the school would have no choice but to make some drastic cuts which would include losing a significant number of teachers. I’m very concerned that our schools would suffer significant damage lasting long after the pandemic is over.
There is a lot of uncertainty about what kind of distance learning program Chelsea Schools will offer. I know much is still being decided and designed, but I have the utmost confidence in our teachers to take Chelsea’s excellent curriculum into this new environment. Since my daughter is just starting at South Meadows this year I’ve only gotten to know a few of the teachers, but they have without exception been unfailing in their dedication to their students’ personal development and success. The Chelsea School District is consistently recognized as being one of the best districts not only in the state but in the country, with U.S. News ranking us in the top 4% year after year. I can’t imagine a better group to be facing this problem with.
So to my fellow parents who might still be on the fence – please give Chelsea Schools a chance. Funding is determined by the number of students enrolled and attending (in person or virtually) on Count Day, which this year is Wednesday, October 7th. Keeping your child enrolled through this date brings around $7,438 into the school – that’s a lot of box tops. Let’s stick it out at least until then to protect our school and make sure that the institution that helps make Chelsea a great place to raise a family is as strong as ever once this is all over.