A Tuesday night meeting to talk about the fate of Benton Harbor High School took the form of a rally as the community did just that for its schools. Kicking things off was Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education President Steven Mitchell, who said the board is asking the state for a two-week extension to decide on a proposal to shut down the high school after the 2020-2021 academic year. The board currently has until this Friday to decide. The state has offered debt relief in exchange. Local Trustee Patricia Rush said at Tuesday’s meeting the district’s problems go back to Schools of Choice, telling the crowd it lost $22 million in funding this year to other districts. Other speakers included students who pushed the Fresh Start Resolution.
“Provide a fresh start for these schools so they can rebuild and move forward in peace,” one student said.
Plenty of speakers were brought in from out of town. Sam Riddle with the Michigan National Action Network led the crowd in a chant of “No justice, no peace.” Speakers from Detroit, Saginaw, and Inkster talked about their experiences with the state shutting down schools. As one woman from Inkster warned, “We have nothing. We can’t go back to our schools. There’s no more homecoming, no more nothing.” The public school district in Inkster was entirely dissolved, something many fear will end up happening in Benton Harbor. Benton Harbor board President Steven Mitchell said he wants the extra two weeks to decide on the state’s proposal so the state can talk with the district’s attorneys about alternative solutions.