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Short-Term Stimulus Money Doesn't Fix School Problems

Lansing, MI—Schools across the state are thankful for the federal stimulus dollars from the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that will provide much-needed relief for school budgets this year. However, after this year, there’s a painful reality that schools and communities must face. The Michigan Association of School Boards, Michigan Association of School Administrators and the Michigan School Business Officials are united in our intent to continue to forewarn districts, communities and policymakers that severe cuts are coming for K-12 education, and only some of these cuts will be offset by ARRA funds.

To put our “reality” in perspective, for the upcoming 2009-10 school year, schools may face a $100-$150 per pupil reduction in their funding, even after ARRA funds have been used.

In the 2010-11 school year, there’s a funding cliff. Based on current projections, schools could face reductions of $500 or more per pupil. There will be no additional stimulus dollars according to Washington. The shortfall that individual districts will be dealing with will be even larger as most schools face revenue reductions due to declining enrollment. At the same time, unions are pressing districts for pay increases and health care costs are rising.

Our concern is that people may be getting messages, from the media or elsewhere, that the stimulus funds will save schools. This isn’t the case. We still anticipate having to make significant cuts in 2009-10 and even more so in 2010-11. Schools will soon approach a funding cliff that will put many districts at significant financial risk unless the legislature does something soon.

“Our current funding reality forces us to look at new ways to save costs without jeopardizing the quality of education for our students,” said MASB Executive Director Kathy Hayes. “All of us need to look at our situation as an opportunity to change the way we do things for the better—an opportunity to reform education in a way that puts students first and adults second.”

The times of thinking about one-time fixes and small-scale programs are over. Our education funding system needs a major overhaul. It’s imperative that we all have a common understanding of the challenges facing public education and unite in finding long-term, sustainable solutions. If Michigan legislators care about public education and the 1.6 million children they serve, now is the time they must act quickly to find ways to head off this shortfall and provide stable, adequate funding for public education.