08 Mar Survey: Michigan School Districts Bracing For Layoffs

March 8, 2010

Source: Forbes

LANSING, Mich. — School districts will lay off more teachers, reduce bus service and trim support for sports next academic year unless Michigan shores up its education funding system, an advocacy group said Monday.

A coalition of education groups called Save our Students, Schools and State says schools would be forced to make their deepest cuts yet if the Legislature does not avoid further education funding cuts. The coalition supports several changes, including Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s proposal to reduce the state sales tax from 6 percent to 5.5 percent and expand it to dozens of consumer services that currently aren’t taxed, raising roughly $550 million for schools next fiscal year and keeping per-student funding level.

The proposal for the budget year starting Oct. 1 has been bogged down in the Legislature, where neither Republicans nor Democrats are embracing tax increase proposals in a critical election year. Every seat in the Legislature is up for grabs in November, and voters also will pick a new governor, secretary of state and attorney general.

"I’m sick and tired of hearing nothing is going to happen because it’s an election year," said Tom White, leader of the coalition that includes the Michigan School Business Officials, the Michigan Association of School Boards and several other groups. "The ship is sinking here."

Michigan cut school fundi ng by a minimum of $165 per student this academic year, a 2 percent reduction for districts at the bottom end of the state’s funding spectrum. Schools could face cuts of more than $225 per student next fiscal year, based on the projected deficit in the state’s school aid fund. Districts also could face higher costs for the school employee retirement system, which could push per-pupil funding cuts to the equivalent of more than $400.

A Michigan School Business Officials survey of more than 300 districts found that 86 percent of the state’s public school districts expect to have layoffs in the coming year, based on a projected per-student funding reduction of $268. The group says almost 4,000 school employees could be laid off next fiscal year, on top of an estimated 3,000 teachers, administrators and support staff laid off this year.

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