UPDATE: Birmingham Schools 'Not Happy' With Cuts to Public Education
Michigan House of Representatives approves education bill Thursday evening, cutting student aid by 3.5 percent.
The state House of Representatives voted Thursday night to cut the amount of money the state gives every student in Michigan by 3.5 percent.
The bill was approved by a close 57-53 vote, including Rep. Chuck Moss (R-Birmingham), who also introduced the bill to the House in February.
“Michigan’s economic decline is real and requires that government provide a better product and better services with less cost,” Moss, also the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement Thursday.
The cuts are slightly less than what Gov. Rick Snyder proposed in his Feb. 17 budget, which included a $300 per-pupil cut on top of the $170 per-pupil cut already planned for 2011-12.
The current House bill would cut $256-$297 per-pupil on top of the $170 per-pupil cut, depending on the amount of grants the school receives.
The bill also takes $900 million from the School Aid Fund to be distributed among 15 public universities and 28 community colleges.
The House bill's passage is not the end of the discussion; the bill now goes to the Senate and, eventually, to Gov. Snyder for his stamp of approval.
In total, Birmingham is facing a $7.7 million budget deficit for 2011-12; before Snyder’s budget plan was released, the district’s projected deficit was $5 million. Since 2002, Birmingham says it has cut $28 million in expenses.
Birmingham's community relations director Marcia Wilkinson said Birmingham administrators haven't yet had a chance to discuss the impacts of the bill, but stressed they're frustrated. "We're not happy to see a cut to public education," she said Friday.
Wilkinson said, in particular, administrators were hoping legislators wouldn't take money away from the School Aid Fund.
"We were hoping that the $900 million transfer wouldn't happen," she said. "But it's looking like it will."
Birmingham has already hosted a variety of meeting and forums on the budget, including a legislative forum April 25, when area state representatives and senators debated Proposal A and taking money out of the school aid fund.
“Teachers have a terribly tough job,” Sen. Pappageorge (R-Troy) said at the forum, after stressing there is no additional money for schools. “But these teachers, as parents and citizens, want to make sure they don’t load their kids down with debt.”
Rep. Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield) disagreed, saying the money is in the School Aid fund and it’s absolutely wrong to take it away from K-12 education. “We have to define what we’re going to use those dollars for and that should be local school districts,” she said.
In addition, the Birmingham PTSA continues to urge parents to reach out to their legislators, asking for help fighting Snyder’s plan. In an email sent to parents Thursday, school officials asked parents to contact their representatives and senators, urging them to oppose any budget for education that doesn’t restore cuts to schools.
The Michigan Education Association (MEA), Michigan’s largest teachers’ union, also stressed the fight isn’t over.
“This this vote is very disappointing, the budget battle isn’t over,” the MEA statement reads. “The House and Senate now must reconcile competing funding plans. We continue to work around the clock to try to stop the GOP-controlled Legislature from cutting vital education that helps students.”