The global pandemic has wreaked havoc on state budgets, and Michigan is no exception; we face an estimated $6.2 billion shortfall through next year. To avoid catastrophic cuts, educators across the country are asking for help from Congress, like what has already been provided to such large corporations as airlines, cruise companies and banks.
Specifically, educators are urging Congress to pass the new HEROES Act, which includes billions to help states maintain a quality public education for students.
Like most states, Michigan’s constitution requires a balanced budget. This means that absent federal relief, policymakers will have to consider significant school funding cuts. Last week, state economists agreed that the shortfall for K-12 schools alone was $1.2 billion this year and $1.1 next. Cuts to that level would balloon class sizes and eliminate services for students when they can least afford it — especially in some of our hardest-hit communities.
Speaking to the need for this federal relief, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer explained why it is so important: “We know it is going to be a while before we get back to the economic strength that we had prior to this crisis, but we can’t sacrifice the education of our kids while we wait for the economy to recover.”
The HEROES Act, passed Friday by the U.S. House, would provide states with more than $915 billion to offset COVID-19 budget losses, including those that would devastate public education.
In all, America’s educators are advocating for at least $175 billion of that additional federal funding go to education. In addition, we need funding to reduce the digital divide — or “homework gap” — and to provide personal protective equipment for education employees who still must show up at worksites to supply meals and schoolwork for students.