There’s a painful economic reality that schools and communities must face. Currently the legislature is proposing a $165 per pupil cut for schools, nearly four months after the date they are required by law to submit their budgets and six weeks after the school year has already begun. Furthermore, according to a variety of economic experts, severe cuts to K-12 education will continue to come next year, when there may be another $300 to $500 per pupil reduction. These unprecedented cuts negatively impact our students, our schools and our state. The Michigan Association of School Administrators (MASA), Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) and the Michigan School Business Officials (MSBO) are united to do something about it.
What message are we sending the rest of the country, including businesses that may wish to locate here, if our legislature can’t even provide stable funding for one of the most vital functions of the state—educating children? Michigan has 28 school districts in deficit now, and if we continue down this path we could easily have double that number next year. It will become a huge embarrassment to our state. Piling these cuts onto several years of little or no increases from the state leaves schools with few options—many won’t be able to avoid deficit budgets unless the legislature makes changes in how schools are funded.
A survey from the Michigan School Business Officials reveals that more than 3,000 teachers, administrators and support staff will lose their jobs if funding isn’t preserved. Also, according to the survey, districts are planning to eliminate or significantly reduce athletics, the number of school days, contract out some or all services, freeze salaries and benefits, further consolidate or collaborate services with other districts or ISDs, continue to increase class size, and reduce or eliminate student transportation as ways to preserve their core educational services.
With public education funding problems on the brink of a cliff, MASA, MASB and MSBO have created a special task force, The SOS Task Force—Save Our Students, Save Our Schools, Save Our State—to help districts weather the storm. The task force, comprised of association staff, school board members, superintendents, business officials and other stakeholders, will work to improve how schools are funded in Michigan, while trying to find ways to reduce costs.
The task force is a collaborative effort between the three associations and Tom White, former executive director of MSBO has been appointed to lead the cause. “We’ll look at new ways to save costs while trying to change and improve education for our students,” said Tom White. “However, our legislature can and must do a better job of providing stable and reliable funding. Cutting hundreds of dollars per pupil from our budgets after the school year has begun hurts students, parents and our schools. It doesn’t make sense. We’re sensitive to the state’s budget situation but we also believe we need to fix the problem systemically, not just argue endlessly about it and cut budgets late in the year.”