Budget update: Lawmakers move ahead with cuts

Schools with half-day kindergarten programs would receive less funding, a move that will exacerbate the budget crisis in many districts, under a budget plan that advanced in Lansing this week.

The Senate Appropriations Committee today approved a plan to raid the School Aid Fund to help pay for community colleges and universities, which are historically supported with the state’s general fund. The plan includes giving districts with half-day kindergarten programs just half of a pupil foundation grant.

Other big changes include capping districts from paying more than $13,000 or 80 percent of employee health care and the elimination of school bus inspections.

The House Appropriations Committee will take up that chamber’s version of the budget next week. The Senate and House are working on separate budgets. In the next few weeks, legislators from the two chambers will hammer out a deal that will be forwarded to Gov. Rick Snyder.

MEA opposes cuts to education and the raid on the School Aid Fund, a move that is causing a budget crisis that would not otherwise exist. If lawmakers used the school money only for K-12 schools, as they have for years, districts would actually receive a funding increase.

Here’s a summary of where the budgets stand now:

  • Senate Bill 171: Community colleges would receive $10 million less next year under the plan approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee today. Some funding - $296 million – for community colleges would come from the School Aid Fund, money that’s supposed to be used to fund K-12 schools.
  • Senate Bill 178: Universities would receive 15 percent less next year. And, $300 million of university funding would come from the School Aid Fund.
  • Senate Bill 183: K-12 schools would receive $340 less next year compared with this year. This bill passed the Senate Appropriations Committee today on a party line vote, with Republicans voting for it and Democrats opposing. The committee decided to provide just half of the per pupil foundation grant for districts that offer half-day kindergarten programs, a funding loss that many superintendents advised would cause extreme financial hardship on top of other budget cuts. The panel also decided to eliminate funding for school bus inspections and repealed the mandate to inspect buses.
  • House Bill 4268: The House plan would cut community college funding by 15 percent, or nearly $44 million. The budget would require colleges to post general fund expenditures on their websites, including information on employee salaries and benefits. The plan was approved by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Community Colleges.
  • House Bill 4275: The House wants to cut university funding by 14 percent, or about $218 million. Universities would have to post expenditures online, too. This bill was approved by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education.
  • House Bill 4280: A House subcommittee this week approved cutting between $285 and $331 per pupil. The House bill would maintain full funding for half-day kindergartners in 2011-12, but require students to receive an equal number of instructional hours as students in grades 1-12 to receive full funding.

Even if you’ve done so already, contact your state senator and representative. Provide him/her with detailed information about how continued budget cuts affect your students, your family, and your community. Don’t forget to tell your legislators to leave the School Aid Fund alone!