Lansing Conference Yields No Decision Yet On TCAPS' $700,000
June 15, 2019
A conference was held by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) in Lansing Thursday to attempt to resolve the $700,000 in question regarding classification of homeschooled students by Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS). No resolution was reached at the meeting, which was attended by several TCAPS representatives, though TCAPS Superintendent Paul Soma remains as confident as ever that the state’s claim has no merit.
He tells The Ticker, “I said from beginning that this was trying to legislate from behind an audit desk, and this has confirmed my thought. This is basically a state-sanctioned bias against home-schooled students,” adding that the conference itself "demonstrated full dysfunction by the MDE.” It was unclear during Thursday’s conference who among MDE representatives was leading the meeting, if the event was intended to be public, and what the next steps might be as a result of the conference. At one point in the proceedings, state employees argued loudly back and forth about their individual roles in the process, as well as about the basis for the complaint.
The issue originated back in October, when the MDE had directed the Traverse Bay Intermediate School District (TBAISD) to deduct 102 full-time equivalents (FTEs) from TCAPS’ 2017-18 student count because of an alleged misclassification of students in the Northern Michigan Partnership (NMP), which primarily serves homeschooled students. The FTE deduction would have resulted in TCAPS losing approximately $700,000 in state funding.
From the beginning, TCAPS noted that the NMP was developed with the assistance of a pupil accounting auditor from TBAISD, and that the program has been audited on two separate occasions with no adverse findings. The second audit actually increased the number of FTEs that TCAPS was allowed to claim through the NMP program.
Attorneys for TCAPS have formally requested — both prior to the conference and during — that the FTEs and corresponding funding be reinstated.