Experts Say More Teachers Could Be Cut

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Teacher layoffs in Jackson County's Northwest Community Schools and special education layoffs in Lansing might seem isolated, but some in the business of education say more mid-Michigan teachers could lose their jobs in the coming months.

If you have two teachers teaching the same subject, Justin King of the Michigan Association of School Boards says, one teacher might be laid off. The result?

"You'd have one teacher teaching 60 kids," he said. "That's not a good teaching atmosphere."

But that's the atmosphere that could come to some classrooms as soon as March according to King.

It would happen because of lower-than-expected sales tax revenues, which the state relies on to fund schools. In November, sales tax estimates led some experts to conclude the planned $210-per-pupil funding increase could all but disappear.

The specter of mid-year cuts prompted administrators from Webberville to Grand Ledge to St. Johns to tell us in recent months the state needs to change the way it pays for education.

"It becomes very difficult to work in an environment and plan for the future when we can have such drastic cuts or pro-rations that come from the state during this time of the year," St. Johns Superintendent Bob Kudwa told us in November.

Leaders at the Michigan Association of School Boards concur: a change is needed.

"That's not to raise taxes or not raise taxes, but to put it on the table and get some input from around the state and solve the problem, so we don't have to keep having this conversation," King said.

School boards and teachers unions often find themselves on opposite ends of debates over money, but in this case, the state school board association and the state teachers union agree.

"We agree that there is not enough revenue coming into schools and we have to do something about that," Michigan Education Association President Iris Salter said.

Options include expanding the sales tax from goods into services, raising the income tax or returning to a heavier reliance on property taxes.

But it's hard to say if the governor or the legislature would be willing make that change.