Benton Harbor Community At Odds with Whitmer on Plan to Close High School

If the district doesn’t come up with a better plan, the governor’s administration says it will have to close its high school for the 2020 school year.

Jake Neher/WDET

Benton Harbor’s school district is more than $18 million in debt, according to the Whitmer administration. The governor says if the district doesn’t come up with a better plan, it will have to close its high school for the 2020 school year to keep up with its bills.

That means many students in the majority-black district would have to finish their education in nearby majority-white districts.

Many members of the Benton Harbor community say that’s an unacceptable solution and that kids would face discrimination and poor treatment in those districts.

On Detroit Today, Stephen Henderson speaks with two people familiar with the situation in Benton Harbor.

Jennifer Chambers covers K-12 education for the Detroit News, and has been covering the story extensively.

Elizabeth McCree is an attorney and education advocate from Benton Harbor who has been speaking out publicly against plans to close the city’s high school.

Click on the audio player above to hear that conversation.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was unavailable for an interview. Her office sent Detroit Today this statement:

“Governor Whitmer believes that every child in Michigan deserves a quality public education that gets them on a path to a good job. She remains committed to hearing from school board members, community leaders, and legislators about their concerns and ideas, and is open to any viable plan that will help students get on a path to success and resolve the district’s more than $18 million debt. The plan the state put on the table is the only solution we’ve found that puts students first and tackles the financial problems the Benton Harbor district is facing. Governor Whitmer extended the state’s original deadline for the school board to make a decision regarding the state’s proposal because she wants to make sure everyone’s voice is heard and all viable options get to the table. The governor’s first priority is and always has been ensuring Benton Harbor students can get on track to earn a postsecondary degree and build a life for themselves here in Michigan.”


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