Saturday, July 12, 2014

Mattawan Divided

Julie Mack has a long article on the alleged divide in the Mattawan School District between Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

Mattawan quest for new schools is partly struggle between rural working-class and affluent suburbanites

It starts with the usual wailing about how much the district needs new buildings.
Yet while Mattawan is one of the region's most affluent school districts, it arguably has among the worst facilities -- particularly the drab, half-century-old elementary school complex on Murray Street, which serves almost 2,000 students in grades K-5. The buildings are routinely described as severely overcrowded and sorely outdated.

School supporters say such facilities are an embarrassment in a district known for its stellar academics and programs. Indeed, the school system is one of the biggest magnets drawing new residents into the area.
How is it possible that Mattawan has "stellar academics and programs" when its facilities are "severely overcrowded and sorely outdated"?  Has anyone considered the possibility that facilities don't make much difference in student outcomes?

So what is the divide?  The article notes that the Kalamazoo side is richer:
Currently, Kalamazoo County accounts for 60 percent of the district's voters, 69 percent of the district's tax base and is the residence of four of the seven school board members
And zero percent of the district's schools, curiously.

However, opposition to tax increases is stronger on the Van Buren side.
In the May 2011 election, the Van Buren and Kalamazoo precincts each had the same number of "no" votes -- 1,047. But there were 1,081 "yes" votes in Kalamazoo County, compared to 610 in Van Buren County.

In the November 2011 election, which had higher turnout, the bond proposal was defeated by 52 percent of the voters in Kalamazoo County and 59 percent in Van Buren.
So it is the richer people pushing for a tax increase and the poorer people resisting, which is the opposite of the usual class warfare narrative.

Here are a couple more statistics.  Julie Mack quotes three supporters of the millage and zero opponents.  Also, 100% of the authors of the article obviously support the millage.

No comments: