Education Leaders to Michigan Legislature: the Clock has run out on School Funding
School leaders from the Tri-County Alliance for Public Education today emphasized the crisis schools are facing with just weeks remaining before the first day of school. During a “State of Michigan Schools” roundtable, the group discussed the impact the lack of funding certainty is having on schools as they have worked through reopening plans, while calling on state legislators to fill the budget shortfall. Participants included Macomb ISD Superintendent Michael DeVault, Wayne RESA Superintendent Dr. Randy Liepa, Rochester Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Robert Shaner and TCA Executive Director Robert McCann.
“As we plan for the 2020–21 school year, superintendents across the state are working diligently to provide our students with the best possible learning options for the fall, given the uncertainties of the current environment,” said Rochester Schools Superintendent Dr. Robert Shaner. “No matter how good those plans are, school districts are facing an uphill battle, not just because of the uncertain nature of this virus, but because of the funding shortfalls that make it difficult to meet the challenges associated with returning our students and staff to school safely.”
As parents, students and teachers await state and federal funding decisions, districts have been forced to move forward with little guidance and no funding certainty coming from Lansing or Washington, leaving many to abandon plans to start the school year in-person and shift focus to remote learning, an option educators and parents agree does not provide students with the best learning experience.
On June 17, TCA sent a memorandum to lawmakers noting that, in addition to the already known multi-billion dollar deficits in the 2019–2020 and 2020–2021 budgets, conservative estimates showed schools statewide were facing over $1 billion in new costs to plan for reopening this year to provide PPE, implement safety measures and ensure, to the best extent possible, the health and safety of both students and staff.
“The complexity of the current environment requires resources to keep our students, staff, and community safe,” added Dr. Shaner. “We’re now a few short weeks from the start of the school year. The bipartisan support of our legislature is critical to provide the funding resources that would enable us to open schools safely.”
During the roundtable, education officials called out those in Lansing who continue to suggest they can’t act until Washington provides further stimulus dollars, noting that there is money available to pass a budget for K-12 schools immediately to give them the resources and certainty they need while the state waits for stimulus money to resolve the deficits in the budget as a whole.
“Lansing has ‘borrowed’ billions of dollars from our K-12 school budgets over the past decade because lawmakers have chosen not to prioritize the education of our kids. Now, more than ever, that simply has to change,” said TCA Executive Director Robert McCann. “Lawmakers still have an opportunity to pass a clean K-12 spending bill immediately that utilizes General Fund dollars to make up the deficit in the School Aid Fund and ensure schools receive the resources and funding certainty they critically need as they attempt to finalize reopening plans. We’re out of time for excuses. Our students need action.”