Comet Community! In partnership with the Hillsdale ISD, Jonesville and other county schools, will be running a Special Education Millage for the May 3rd vote. The millage is asking for a 2 mill increase for 20 years. This is a “flow through” millage which means the funds levied do not go to the HISD but, rather, to the county schools based on a formula. The formula is the Genesee County model which has been approved by the Michigan Department of Education. 

Why is there a need for this? Currently, Hillsdale county levies the fewest amount of mills when it comes to Special Education compared to Branch, Lenawee, Calhoun, and Jackson counties. Hillsdale county also levies the fewest amount of overall mills too. This impacts our general fund significantly. Jonesville Community Schools services 123 Special Education students. The total expenditure for the district is $753,677 of which $242,025 is reimbursed from the state leaving Jonesville to cover the remaining $511,652. This comes right out of our general fund budget. Hillsdale county, including Jonesville, have had to resort to asking for waivers from the state to raise our pupil to teacher ratio from 18 students to 25. The recommended ratio is 1 teacher for no more than 18 students. Special education services across the county have risen dramatically the past few years. The more students receiving services, the more the general fund is impacted. This impacts everything from staffing to facilities to supplies. 

What has Jonesville done to address the programming/staff issue? We replaced a special education position that had been vacated at the end of last year and we have hired two additional staff members to get our teacher to student ratio in line with state recommendations. This way, we can provide our students with more tailored services and reduce teacher caseloads to more manageable numbers. We also had an “audit” of where we were at and what we needed in each building to make sure we are providing the educational services our special education students need. These recommendations ranged from additional support to curriculum to re-evaluating our current plans for these students. Some of these we have already implemented and others we are looking to do next year. 

The fact of the matter is that the trend for special education numbers is only going up. This is true both statewide and nationally. We have an educational responsibility to make sure that we provide all of our students the best education and services we can to give them the best opportunity in life. We will continue to do this regardless. However, the rising costs impacts other aspects of our overall education and facilities. The money reimbursed to Jonesville through this millage will allow us to maintain our programming while looking to see where else in the district we might be able to improve. This includes staffing, programming, and facilities to name a few. 

I will be holding an open meeting next Wednesday at 5:30 at Jonesville high school. I encourage you to please come out and ask all the questions you have. Whatever answers I may not have, I will research and get back to you personally. I will also be posting information on our website and Facebook about this because there is more detail I can provide that really puts what we are asking for into context. I understand that asking for additional funds is not to be taken lightly. However, this additional support really is critical to the school district. I appreciate your consideration and look forward to seeing you next week!