Washtenaw county school districts react to potential $218 per pupil state cuts
Ann Arbor school board President Deb Mexicotte lambasted state legislators Wednesday following news that they're considering cutting $218 in per-pupil funding from school districts in the upcoming state budget, which goes into effect Oct. 1.Â
A House committee approved the per-pupil reduction yesterday. The full House and Senate still have to vote on it.
“Our legislators, who have told us that educating our students is a priority that they would turn around and remove funds is unconscionable. Where is our anger at how they are treating our students?" she said. "They work for us and we need to let them know how we feel.”
Local districts stand to lose millions of dollars from the budget cuts. Replacing that money would be almost impossible, various district officials said.
"First, the proposed $218 per student cut to local school districts is extreme," said Brian Marcel, the Washtenaw Intermediate School District's assistant superintendent for business services. "It will be a devastating $10 million loss to Washtenaw County school districts and their students this current school year. Our schools can’t continue to make deep cuts."
"We urge our legislators to turn down this bill and fill the gap with Recovery Act (stimulus) money now.Â And, then go back and develop a more equitable funding plan."
Washtenaw County's cash-strapped districts are already asking voters to approve a countywide enhancement millage in November to help ease their budget pain. The measure would place a new 2-mill tax on property owners in Washtenaw County. The money raised would be distributed to each of the 10 local traditional school districts.
In Ann Arbor, the district stands to lose about $3.6 million from the state cuts, Superintendent Todd Roberts said. The district also would lose additional money through other funding cuts, Roberts said.
“It would really create a significant hardship for school districts,” Roberts said.
In Ypsilanti, the cut would cost the district about $1 million, Superintendent Dedrick Martin said in a statement e-mailed to AnnArbor.com.
“We are disappointed that the state legislature is considering significant cuts to public education," he said in the statement. "This decision will have a major negative impact on our overall budget, to the tune of approximately $1 million. We are hopeful that the regional enhancement millage, if passed, will somewhat soften the blow. Regardless, we are going to have to tighten our belt and adjust to the state’s new financial realities.”
In Saline, the district stands to lose $1.1 million in state funding, Superintendent Scot Graden tweeted yesterday.
The biggest problem facing districts is that they were required to set their budgets before the start of the July 1 fiscal year. That means they had to project funding from the state, which makes up the bulk of their income.
Making cuts during their budget year, when people and programs are already in place, is more painful than cutting them before the year starts, administrators said. Districts didn’t know where the cuts would be made if the measure is passed.
The bill would also strip funding from the WISD, Marcel said.
"In addition to the $10 million per pupil cut to our local districts, the reduction in state funding to the WISD would be approximately $850,000 this school year. This loss would directly impact our general education fund.Â Excluding grant-funded and special projects, it represents more than 25 percent of WISD’s general education revenue.
"This would directly impact services to the more than 46,000 students in Washtenaw County’s ten local school districts."
On the early childhood education front, the committee restored all of the Great Start Readiness Program "state aid formula" funding, which provides funds for public school programs that serve at-risk kids, and restored half of the GSRP "competitive" funding, which provides funds to private, non-profit agencies.
Perry Nursery School in Ann Arbor, which serves only at-risk children, receives about 40 percent of its funding from GSRP competitive grants.
According to Melissa Pinsky, co-director of theÂ Washtenaw Great Start Collaborative, a task force that supports local early childhood education, the budget passed by the committee also would:
- Reduce 0-3 Secondary Prevention Grants aimed at home visitation and parent education to prevent child abuse and neglect by 25 percent.
- Reduce funding for the Early Childhood Investment Corporation, the state body that oversees local programs that foster school readiness for young children, by $750,000, bringing its funding to $6 million.Â
- Maintain $5 million in funding for the Great Parents, Great Start program, which supports community efforts to develop parent involvement and education programs.
Pinsky, who attended the committee meeting with a contingent of early childhood educators, said she was encouraged that some early childhood funding was restored but dismayed at the cuts to K-12 education.
"We believe that education at all levels isÂ critical to the well-being of our state,Â and are deeply concerned that the school aid budget as proposed pits early childhood against K-12 services," Pinsky said. "We will continue to advocate for programs that serve young children and their families, but do not believe that these should be funded at the expense of K-12 programs, including intermediate school districts."
David Jesse covers K-12 education for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 734-623-2534.