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Republican led state Senate introduces first draft of K-12 schools budget

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
A crowd gathers in a Grand Rapids neighborhood to protest Governor Snyder's budget plan earlier this month.

Republican lawmakers in Lansing are taking feedback on their first draft of the budget for K through 12 public schools. The plan cuts less per student than Governor Rick Snyder’s proposed budget.

Senator Howard Walker chairs the appropriations subcommittee on K-12, School Aid and Education. He says instead, the Senate version gets rid of line items funds in the budget that cover specific things like school bus inspections, adult education, and money for districts with two consecutive years of declining student enrollment.

“We’re not making broad-based cuts to programs, that we’re not increasing class sizes too broadly so that the delivery of good educational opportunities is not affected.”

School districts get a certain amount of money from the state for each student. Currently, $7,316 is the minimum per pupil allowance a district gets. Governor Snyder is proposing to cut that amount by $470 (including making permanent a $170 cut made last year) for all school districts. The plan before the Senate would cut that per pupil allowance by $290.

School leaders, teachers, parents and others are generally outraged at the cuts proposed by Governor Snyder.

Brandon Dillon is a state representative from Grand Rapids. He’s been taking part in rallies against the plan. Grand Rapids Public Schools could face up to a $25 million deficit this year under Snyder’s plan.

“It’s really contradictory to the governor’s overall message of trying to create jobs in this state. We don’t think is going to be possible if we have a public school system that’s not able to meet the needs of employers who may be already in the state or who are looking.”

This week Democrats in Lansing launched a new website, fightschoolcuts.com. Dillon says it shows residents how much funding their local school district may lose if Governor Snyder’s proposed budget is approved.  

“People hear a lot of numbers, you know $400 per pupil cut or $150 here or $250 there and sometimes it doesn’t really mean a lot until you can see the real impact.”

Considering Michigan’s budget, Howard says any plan approved this year will likely include “significant” cuts to K-12 public education. But Howard says he and other lawmakers need to consider a number of factors to get the state’s budget deficit under control, and he says it is not always easy.

“It’s a big complicated process that we’re going through but I believe we’re on the right track and we’re doing things that are going to get Michigan back growing jobs again.”

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Radio’s Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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