The Benton Harbor mayor lead a delegation to Lansing Tuesday to meet with lawmakers and the Governor about a Department of Treasury lead plan that would close the district's high school in the spring of 2020.
The state proposed closing the high school as a way to pay down the district’s $18.4 million in debt. The students would be sent neighboring districts.
Benton Harbor is predominatly black, the districts the students would be sent to are mostly white.
The Benton Harbor School Board and community members say they have alternatives to the state’s plan. They have not been forthcoming with details.
Mayor Marcus Muhammad said he’s ready to fight the closure. He says he will halt development in the city. And possibly deny next year’s Senior PGA tournament, which is scheduled to be played at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor next spring.
“So if Benton Harbor Highs School is going to be scrapped and put to the side, then all developments will be put on the table and will come to a screeching halt.”
Governor Gretchen Whitmer says the state is open to other solutions. “We’ve put a thoughtful solution on the table that is a viable alternative that treasury and MDE feel addresses the outcomes for kids as well as the debt, then certainly interested in considering it.”
Other districts have been closed by the state over debt and poor student outcomes. Mayor Marcus Muhammad said Benton Harbor helped elect Whitmer. They expected her to help the school, not close it.
“We want the governor to be successful. But not at the expense of the city of Benton Harbor and Benton Harbor High School.”
Members of the Benton Harbor community, including the school board have said the closure of the high school is a wealth transfer. Taking school money and students from Benton Harbor and giving it to other districts. And they say the land the high school sits on is saught by developers.
The Mayor met with the Governor this Tuesday afternoon. The school board is scheduled to meet with state officials Wednesday. A deadline for a plan is set for Friday.