Some School Cuts Almost Inevitable

By: Tony Tagliavia Email
By: Tony Tagliavia Email

Schools have a new number to face.

"We're talking about a $116 per pupil cut to schools at this point in time," state Treasurer Bob Kleine said Friday.

That's the per student cut schools across the state could face now that the state has revised its budget deficit.

Schools have few options for dealing with those cuts. Districts could eliminate busing, shut down early, or go into deficit spending -- resulting in a state penalty.

A few districts have enough money in rainy day funds to cover the cuts.

Months or even weeks ago, the governor warned schools would face those dire choices only if lawmakers didn't pass the new sales tax she was asking for.

Now even the tax could only make up some of the state's nearly $800 million deficit because it would only have a short time to raise money for the state. The state treasuer says if the sales tax is passed, it could lessen the cuts.

"We could probably get by with less, but I couldn't give you a number," Kleine said.

The other way to avoid cuts to schools would be to move money from another department in a one-time fix. The Senate has proposed shifting money from the governor's "21st Century Jobs Fund." That move would still result in a $36 per student cut to schools.

The situation has school leaders frustrated.

"You just can't implore the legislature enough," Lansing board Vice President Hugh Clarke said, to drop what he called political games and "talk about what they're going to do."

But one by one it seems the solutions for legislators to avoid education cuts entirely are disappearing with time. One possible solution would be hiking the income tax rate, but it's unclear if such a move could win the support or lawmakers or the people.

"This is the worst fiscal crisis that Michigan has ever faced, since the 1930s at least," Kleine said.


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