Michigan School Board Members Outraged at Budget Cuts to Schools

Lansing, MI – The Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB), and the school board members we represent, are outraged at the severe cuts to public education. School districts got a rude shove toward the edge of a funding cliff yesterday when the House and Senate Conference Committee on K-12 Appropriations voted for a $218 per pupil reduction in state funding for the current year. House Bill 4447 represents disproportionate cuts in education.

“This is unacceptable,” said Kathy Hayes, executive director of MASB. “The Legislature has known about the state’s budget crisis for months. Waiting until after the start of our school year to tell us about major cuts is no way to run a state. It makes running a school district very difficult. They can and should do much better by Michigan’s schools and students.”

In addition to cutting K-12 districts, the proposal would cut funding to intermediate school districts (ISDs) by 44 percent. ISDs provide a variety of programs and services to K-12 districts within a county or group of counties. These reductions will devastate programs like special education, professional development, technology programs and career and technical preparation, and may result in the end of some of those programs. K-12 districts will either have to pay to continue them, or drop them mid-year.

This is all evidence of what schools have been saying for years. The system for funding public education in Michigan is broken and needs a major fix. Lansing’s inability to deal with the core problems of state revenues and funding education is reprehensible. Instead of dealing with the budget crunch in a thoughtful and timely way, they passed the problem down to local school districts, which ultimately impacts students and communities.

“These kinds of cuts enacted three months after the start of our fiscal year will have devastating effects on essential programs and staffing. It may push more districts into deficit—the equivalent of bankruptcy,” says Hayes. “There are already a record number of districts, 28, including Detroit that are operating in deficit.”

There’s still time for Lansing to do the right thing for this year. They need to reverse these cuts and solve the long-term budget problem that has been haunting Michigan for the last four years. The legislature can use the more than $180 million in carryover money to help mitigate these drastic cuts. The legislature has a year to figure out how to adequately fund public education. If not, we will face even worse problems next year. Good education programs attract business to Michigan, and create opportunities for kids. These types of cuts undermine Michigan’s survival and the ability for our state to recover from this economic crisis.