Lansing School District Proposes $120 million bond
Since 2009, legislation has deemed 10 areas in Michigan as “promise zone authorities” – areas that grant graduates of local schools scholarships to help with the cost of a post-secondary education – the goal being to provide upper level education at little or no cost to members of communities where that education is lacking. Lansing’s promise zone has accepted 425 Promise Scholars from Lansing area high schools thus far who will continue their education at either Michigan State University or Lansing Community College.
In order to further explore and utilize the Lansing Promise Scholarship program, the Bond Committee and Board of Education in the Lansing School District is blazing new paths for students and parents to take charge of education by introducing their new bond proposal called the Lansing Pathway Promise, which will appear on the May 3 ballot for resident and business owners to vote on.
The Lansing Pathway Promise, a $120 million bond, aims to upgrade school facilities, security, technology and furniture, as well as integrating Everett, Eastern and Sexton High Schools as separate entities, each having their own areas of focus; providing students with pathways that focus on their areas of interest.
Yvonne Caamal Canul, superintendent of Lansing School District, says that this program would provide a “distinct edge” for students, preparing them for college and careers earlier and more specifically.
“From a community perspective, the future of the city is closely linked to the success of our schools; strong schools and a strong work force are major factors in attracting and retaining businesses and people,” said Caamal Canul. “The bond program will strengthen property values, which in turn strengthens the community.”
What is currently Lansing Eastern High School will offer a pathway for those whose areas of focus include International Baccalaureate – focus areas including Chinese Language Immersion and Biotechnology. Caamal Canul explained that businesses and industries in the Lansing area do have a presence in the global market.
“Lansing is a very culturally diverse city with people from every corner of the globe either living and working in Lansing or attending Michigan State University,” explained Caamal Canul. “Providing a world language to our students better equips them for global economic opportunities. In a competitive global market, it is essential to be critical thinkers. The field of biotechnologies is exploding with new methods for treating illness as well as addressing preventative care. As the population ages, this field will continue to grow and our students need to be ready to join the work force.”
Lansing Everett High School will be focused on the visual and performing arts, as well as new technology.
“The Lansing Metro area has many opportunities for our students to engage in visual and performing arts partnerships,” said Caamal Canul. “The Lansing community loves its arts and it’s important to foster that appreciation by creating a pathway for students who excel in this area. The creativity and expression of self is so critical for meaningful engagement.”
The third school in the Lansing Pathway Promise, currently Sexton High School, will focus on science, technology and engineering, offering Spanish immersion and classes involved in skilled trades and manufacturing.
Another part of the Lansing Pathway Promise involves community involvement; local businesses can partner with area-specific schools to provide services such as becoming mentors/tutors for students, professional guest speakers, setting up student shadow/internship programs and helping with curriculum development, to name a few.
“The Lansing Pathway Promise provides area businesses and industries with clear pathways that relate to their core mission,” Caamal Canul explained. “In this way, students will be able to have mentors from the business community, opportunities for internships and work/study programs. Members of the business community can be actively promoting and involved in the schools so that students see a future as an employee, stay and work in Lansing, and contribute to the overall financial health of the community.”
The program won’t just help the students – it’s designed to assist local businesses as well. Schools will recognize and promote business partners in school newsletters, advertisements and more; for example, the school facilities will be open for the business partners’ use and business partner employees get free tickets to school events. Businesses like Sparrow, The Wharton Center and Emergent Bio Systems are prospective partners in this venture.
Caamal Canul acknowledged that change can be a scary thing for a community, but while The Pathway Promise does stray from the “traditional neighborhood school profile,” she feels it will “offer robust choices for children and their families.”
“Change can sometimes cause people hesitation, but once they see how the partnership with business and industry coupled with real-life application and the Promise Scholarship opportunity, I think the community will embrace it.”
The Bond Committee and Board of Education are considering three key points as they move forward with the bond proposal: how they will align providing students with career and college-ready programming with much needed facility improvements; the sizing of schools and facilities looking toward the future; and how to highlight the benefit of the promise scholarship program within the bond proposal. The concept labeled: thinking about this project with the end in mind.
“We look at the labor market first – what are the jobs of the future? How do we retool our educational system from a “jobs of the past” to those of the future? How do we provide targeted allocation of resources so that students have the greatest chance at being career and college ready?” Caamal Canul explained. “When they graduate from a Lansing high school, they will be eligible for a PROMISE and/or HOPE scholarship – how do we get them to that point? We have to capture their hearts and minds long before their last year in high school. We need to prepare pathways for their interests and passion early on, all the while giving them a vision for their future.”
In the last five years the state of Michigan has lost over 50,000 students and is expecting another 10,000-student loss next year.
“We are hopeful that enrollment will stabilize and increase with the new focus on The Pathway Promise,” Caamal Canul said.
Moving forward, financially, the bond proposal introduces a three dollar increase in property tax per month, based on a median home value of $94,729. Caamal Canul notes that the bond does have a life of 25 years, and the three-dollar increase in property tax is expected to cover that.
“The tax is not a permanent increase,” she said. “It is a 25 year period of time where local taxing authorities collect the revenue for the school district. However, the previous bond which was passed about 10 years ago, will expire in 8 years, thereby reducing the property tax at that time.”
To learn more about the Lansing Pathway Promise program before the vote on May 3, visit lansingpromise.org.