Members of the Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education say the state’s proposal last week to close Benton Harbor High School was sprung on them during what had been scheduled as a regular meeting with Treasury officials. Trustee Joseph Taylor tells WSJM NEws it was made clear at Friday’s meeting with representatives of the governor that, to them, only the administration’s proposal would be an option.
“I think what they tried to do was to give us a carrot,” Taylor said. “That carrot was $10.8 to $11 million of deficit elimination from the state loans that we have with the state if we close our high school.”
Taylor adds he was told southwest Michigan state lawmakers were behind state officials on this plan. He says the locally-elected board wasn’t even told the state was in town looking at the district last week.
“We asked, ‘Why didn’t you talk to the board first?’ They said, ‘We don’t have to talk to you. We’re the community committee from the governor’s office and we wanted to hear from the community. We didn’t have o talk to you.’”
Taylor says the move to close the high school is a land grab, telling us the property where the school sits has been “in the eyesight of a lot of people for a long time.” The plan is to send its 600-plus students to surrounding districts.
“What a way for all of the surrounding school districts to help balance their budgets with our kids. This is a dissemination of wealth coming from the poor communities going to the other outlying communities that are not African American.”
Taylor demands Governor Gretchen Whitmer come to next Tuesday’s school board meeting, where he says people from all over the state will also be in attendance. Taylor also says district CEO Robert Herrera was complicit in the situation, and “now he gets to try to walk away.”