K-12 Schools About to Lose $218 Per Pupil

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Michigan school districts would lose more than $200 per student this academic year and a popular college scholarship program would be wiped out under budget bills agreed to Wednesday by bipartisan conference committees.
The Democrat-led state House could vote on the proposals as early as Thursday, sending them to the Republican-led Senate before an Oct. 1 budget deadline.
Some Democrats also are preparing proposals that would raise some taxes to save programs such as college scholarships and money for local communities in case the cuts don't pass.
One joint House-Senate committee voted Wednesday to give K-12 school districts the flexibility to cut in a variety of areas, but slashed overall spending by 3.6 percent, or $218 per student. Intermediate school districts, which typically offer services for several schools at the county level, would see their funding reduced by 44 percent. Early childhood education programs would get less money.
The lost funds mean nearly $2 million less for the Bay City school district, $1.3 million less for Battle Creek schools and nearly $19 million less for Detroit public schools, which already faces a $259 million deficit.
"We ended up with something very much less than what I would hope to have in a budget supporting our schools," said Democratic Rep. Terry Brown of Pigeon, who served on the conference committee.
The committee handling the higher education budget eliminated the Michigan Promise scholarship. About 96,000 Michigan college students were expecting some portion of the $4,000 grant this academic year. It typically is paid in $500 installments per semester early in a student's college career.
Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who strongly opposes cutting the Promise grant, has proposed paying for it and certain other programs by raising $685 million in new revenue. Some of that would come from tax increases while the rest would come from cutting some business tax exemptions.
Lawmakers are struggling to draw up budget bills that deal with a $2.8 billion shortfall that federal recovery act money can't entirely fill.
Eliminating the Promise scholarship would save the state about $140 million. The conference committee also voted to eliminate nearly $60 million in other financial and scholarship programs.
The compromise also cuts funding for Michigan's 15 public universities by less than 1 percent. Rules accompanying federal recovery act money restricted how much university spending could be cut, leaving scholarships and financial aid to bear the brunt of the reductions.
A separate conference committee pushed through a state police budget that would rehire 55 of 104 troopers laid off this year and allow the state police to move into a new headquarters building in Lansing. Critics have said the state police should not get a new headquarters given the budget woes.
Federal recovery money will wipe out more than half of state's budget deficit. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop and Democratic House Speaker Andy Dillon say they want to eliminate the rest of the shortfall with at least $1.2 billion in cuts.
Dillon has said targeted tax increases or other revenue sources could be an option to protect spending for scholarships, community health programs, welfare and revenue-sharing payments that go to local governments.
But Republican leaders have not agreed to raise taxes.
"You can't make the kind of cuts that we've made and not impact every budget and every interest group involved in this budget," Bishop said. "So there is concern. But we all know that we've got a responsibility and that's to balance the budget."
Lawmakers also might avoid a partial government shutdown by extending the state's current budget. Granholm doesn't want that, but it's preferable to the alternative if lawmakers can't agree on a balanced budget.
"There's only one thing worse than a continuation budget, and that would be the shutdown of state government," Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd said.

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