Recall Fever Rages in the Michigan Schools

Written by Patricia Hawke for Schools K-12

According to an August 14th article in the Detroit Daily News, an unintended consequence of the Michigan schools funding crisis is a growing number of recalls within the Metro-Detroit area.  The grassroots efforts attempt to oust school board officials, who make unfavorable decisions within the Detroit school districts.

With the funding crisis within the Michigan schools, many local district school board members have been forced to make many difficult decisions to cut costs. Buildings have been closed, and employees have been laid off.

Recall of elected local Michigan schools’ officials is to be used for officials who do things that are illegal, immoral or negligent. Voters, however, are using the recall to target their local Michigan schools’ board members for making unpopular decisions.

Such grassroots actions create the need for special elections. Even if tacked on to another local election, it is costly.  Some recall elections can cost as little as $15,000 or as much as $50,000.  This is money that could be used directly for student curriculum.

There have been two unsuccessful local Michigan schools recalls in the Livonia and St. Clair Shores Lakeview school districts. Voters, who did not believe it worth the cost of a special election, sidelined the St. Clair recall. Current petition drives for a recall are raging in Garden City, Redford Union, and Van Buren school districts, as well as Port Huron.

Five Garden City school board members are being targeted for voting to eliminate 29.5 custodial positions and four food service workers. The local school district, which faced a $2.7 million deficit, will save $2.1 million over the next three years due to the board’s decision.

Five Van Buren board members also are being targeted for recall. Residents believe they have mismanaged money and have twice floated failed proposals to pay for a new high school. Many people believe that something can be done with the current high school, rather than building a new one.

Brad Banasik, an attorney for the Michigan Association of School Boards, is astonished by the recall fever. He states it is an unprecedented number of recall attempts. Unfortunately, the Michigan schools funding crisis continues, which means more difficult decisions by local Michigan schools’ officials, who must cut spending in order to meet more important budgetary needs.  Yet, the community is basically saying, “Do something we do not like, and you will be recalled!”

It is frustrating for local Michigan schools’ officials. Lisa Gubachy, a targeted board member in the Redford Union school district, summed it up best when she said, “Somebody was going to be unhappy no matter what decision the board made.” She wonders why she keeps doing it, but then quickly reminds herself, it is “for the kids.”