Cuts Shock Schools, Superintendent Looks For Fixes

By: Lauren Zakalik Email
By: Lauren Zakalik Email

They've had some time to let the bad news sink in, and "bad" isn't the word they're using anymore.

"It's tragic," says Charlotte School Board President Bob Wilson, who's just plain worried right now.

He says a potential $292 reduction in per pupil funding four months into his school's fiscal year is something he never could have imagined.

"We can't send back the textbooks. We can't unhire people. We can lay people off, but you're going to pay unemployment costs. There's just a lot of things that make it difficult to do additional cuts," Wilson says.

But they're going to happen, he says. That's a sentiment shared by so many at a conference of school board officials in Lansing Friday.

Olivet Superintendent Dave Campbell says looming cuts are going to hit hard-- and hit everyone.

"You're looking at athletic programs, arts programs," Campbell says. "All we do is run programs for kids, and a program isn't an inanimate object; it's a person, leading a child in some way."

But their fate hasn't been sealed quite yet. The Governor says the legislature now has 30 days to come up with revenue to re-fund the additional $127 per pupil reductions she announced Thursday.

That, leaders say, is a double-edged sword.

"If they find revenue, my fear is it's going to drive people out of the state," says Campbell.

"Whenever you raise taxes, it puts Michigan at a competitive disadvantage for jobs," Wilson says.

But it's one or the other, says the Governor-- school cuts or new revenue. It's a multiple choice question some say has no right answer.

State Superintedent Mike Flanagan tells us Friday this is the most difficult time he's seen in education, but the cuts the Governor is imposing are judicious.

"I think the Governor and the state treasurer are trying to be realistic and say numbers have changed. We still aren't getting the revenue we thought we were getting. They want to act sooner than later. That's a good move," he says.

Flanagan is in support of finding new revenue sources, which could include a tax on live events.

"We shouldn't have a poor mom pay sales tax on a winter coat for her kid, and I don't have to pay sales tax on a ticket to go see the Lions. There's something wrong here."

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