A recent article published in The Detroit Free Press took an in-depth look at a state program known as shared time. The piece was titled “Private schools get teachers, public schools profit, Michigan taxes pay for it.” You can find it at https://www.freep.com/story/news/education/2019/05/10/private-schools-teachers-michigan-pays/1128285001/.
I wanted to take a look at the local impact of shared time between Portland Public Schools (PPS) and St. Patrick School (SPS) in Portland, and how it effects the community.
When asked about the length of the agreement locally between PPS and SPS, PPS Superintendent William Heath said, “My records show that PPS started shared time in 2006 and it has basically remained the same since then with the exception of the addition of Kindergarten in 2017.”
PPS currently has a total of seven teachers providing instruction to SPS students on a full or part time basis. Those include:
K-12 Physical Education (full time)
K-12 Art (full time)
K-12 Computers/Technology (part time)
Title I Teacher (part time)
Kindergarten (3 teachers part time)
In email response from SPS Principal Randy Hodge issued through the Diocese of Grand Rapids, he said, “It helps St. Patrick School students by allowing them to have access to classes they might not be able to take. It also frees up money to put towards other programs.”
From the PPS perspective, Heath said, “For Portland Public we get the funding from the State of Michigan for any student being taught by a PPS employee. We then use those funds to cover the cost of our teachers at SPS. We also provide transportation for SPS so the profits from our shared time help cover the cost of transportation.”
Heath went on to say, “PPS can only offer what are considered non-essential classes by legislation to SPS. We can only offer these classes if we currently offer them at the same grade level to our own students. As we increase the options available to PPS students it also allows us the opportunity to add options to SPS students. This includes potentially adding in music and music options, virtual courses, and dual enrollment.”
Heath added, “Recent legislation has capped our amount of shared time to 5% of our traditional student numbers. This cap, introduced this year, makes it difficult for PPS to continue to offer new opportunities to SPS. I am hopeful that language involving this cap will be changed with the new State budget.”
Hodge said, “One the best benefits about the program it helps the children in our community both at PPS and SPS. It helps our students have classes they might not be able to take and it frees up money for additional programs. Also, it benefits students at Portland Public because it allows their school to have additional funds they otherwise would not have so they can apply those funds to other programs as well. Also, it provides an opportunity where administrators from both schools can dialogue and share ideas of how they can best share and allocate resources that benefit both schools. In my tenure here at St. Patrick, I’ve had the opportunity to work with both Chuck Dumas and Will Heath and have taken very seriously our relationship with Portland Public Schools.”