By Kelsey Baak
Since March, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has proposed major cuts for the state budget in the area of K-12 schools. The $340 per pupil reduction will be moved to the School Aid Fund which will help pay for community colleges and universities. This goes against Proposal A, a 1994 Michigan State Constitutional Amendment that gives money to K-12 schools. Without this money, public schools have the potential of going into financial crisis. Over $1.8 billion still needs to be cut in order for the 2011-12 fiscal year state budget to be balanced. Snyder is doing anything he can to make ends meet.
“I kind of feel that [taking money from Proposal A] is illegal because there is a law on the books,” teacher and DHS teacher union representative Jason Gehoksi said. “And he [Snyder] is projecting to do something you can’t do because of the other law. His budget is breaking the law.”
By being in a financial crisis, the state can appoint an emergency manager for each school district as they see fit. This financial manager will have the power to take control of school board and make choices for the school districts that they control.
This financial crisis would be deemed by the state allowing for emergency action to take place.
“By creating a crisis, it allows the state to intervene and does what it wants to do to individual school districts and can’t do unless there is a crisis,” history teacher Ric Shahin said.
The amount of money that the government will be taking from K-12 school districts will likely put some districts into a position of financial crisis, thereby exposing them to being taken over by emergency financial managers.
Many teachers are uncertain about where they will stand next year since major cuts will be made to the district. Teachers now have to recalculate their salaries to figure out how much they will be losing with the new cuts that are proposed. Adding to this, teachers will have to pay about 20 percent of their health care premiums. According to Senate Resolution B a five percent cut in pay checks will take place for all state employees.
“We’re looking at a big chunk of change for a teacher [to lose],” Gehoski said.
Originally, teachers were told that they would find out from the district the number of full time employees that were needed next school year in the beginning of April, which would give teachers an idea of how secure their jobs are. The deadline has now been pushed back to mid to late May. This leaves the potential for a number of teachers to be laid off.
“Experiencing being laid off once because of last year, it puts me on edge a little bit more,” Yearbook and Journalism adviser Cammie Hall said.
This uncertainty has caused stress and worry for teachers inside DHS.
“I’m anxious for myself and anybody else,” Hall said. “It’s this limbo. You can’t make decisions. You don’t feel secure anymore.”
If this sense of insecurity continues, some feel that teaching is not an advisable career path.
“If I had a child who wanted to go into education now, I would be heavily discouraging them,” Shahin said. “The trend is not helpful of future teacher’s careers in the state of Michigan right now.”
How it will affect the kids
Not only are these cuts affecting the teachers, but could possibly have a much larger effect on the students of Michigan in the future.
As the Update went to press, there was a meeting where the administration presented a list of possible things that could be cut. From there, the board will make decisions from that list.
“Pretty much anything could be cut,” MPS Finance Director Linda Cline said in a telephone interview.
By “anything” Cline was referring to transportation, athletics, teachers and funding to departments across the district. Class sizes may also increase, Cline said.
In addition, Snyder’s cuts mean there is a chance that students will be discouraged from attending state schools. With Snyder taking money from K-12 funding and joining it together with university and community college funding, prices will be raised at the state schools, changing the dynamics of colleges in Michigan.
“I suspect that funding for the 2011-12 school year will look fairly close to what the Governor has proposed,” Cline said.
School districts will have to re-evaluate the courses they offer to see what is truly needed in the education of a child and what can be afforded.
“This stuff could damage our student’s education catastrophically,” Shahin said.
The bottom line
With all the changes happening in less than a year, students, teachers and citizens are still trying to figure out how these changes will affect them.
“The problem with fast legislation is it is usually bad legislation,” Shahin said. “Why would you write legislation so broad that you could damage the education of children in areas that are actually working fairly well?”