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Michigan Population Loss Felt in Rural Schools

U.S. Census figures show Michigan was the only state to see its overall population shrink between 2000 and 2010, and those losses are being felt in rural schools.

An Associated Press story reports that most of the state's education funding is based on enrollment, and the loss of each student costs schools at least $6,846 in state aid. Those cuts are being compounded by state budget cuts of roughly $300 per student.

The article highlights Harbor Beach Community Schools, a rural 580-student district about 100 miles north of Detroit. The district has seen a 29 percent decline in its enrollment in the past 10 years, so school officials try to hire teachers who are certified in more than one subject to keep as many programs as possible.

And in Marquette Area Public Schools, the 3,100-student district has lost 25 percent of its enrollment in the past decade, leading the district to close and sell elementary school buildings.

The article doesn't mention consolidation, but that was a big source of controversy last year after a group of newspapers commissioned a study that found the state could save $612 million annually if it consolidated districts and cut management layers. No schools would have been closed.

The report's author, Michigan State University professor Sharif Shakrani, ended up generating as much discussion as the contents of his report. Shakrani was dismissed for plagiarizing parts of his report.

It doesn't appear the state moved forward on the report's recommendations.

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