Painful cuts coming to public school funding from coronavirus impact

Public schools rely on state funding primarily from sales tax and Michigan businesses are struggling to sell things at the moment. School districts find themselves planning for a future with less money and costly problems to solve. 

Right now school districts across the state are bracing for impact they know cuts are coming due to the pandemic. They are just not sure how deep they will be - either way, tough choices are being planned.

 “Taking salary cuts or trying to reduce the amount of money we spend on staff, and it’s going to be painful,” said Dr. Steven Matthews, Novi Schools superintendent.
About 85 percent of the district’s budget is put towards staff. 

“We are a people business, we need teachers, bus drivers, custodians. People is where we spend our money," Matthews said.

And when you factor in the sweeping changes that will likely take place due to the coronavirus, the cost of operating schools goes up. 

“It probably looks like fewer people on the bus, fewer people in a school building from day to day or even a hybrid model," said Dr. Robert Shaner, Rochester Schools superintendent.

They anticipate having to add people, not take them away. 

“A professional to potentially take temperatures. Every child is going to need a mask, extra cleaning materials, all of which comes at a cost," Shaner said.

Rochester schools gets $8,600 per student from the state. As the district plans for this new way of teaching they are doing so anticipating getting $30 million less than last year. 

“But the notion that we are going to cut funding by $2,000 per child and open school in a socially distant way, I’m not sure how that would work," Shaner said.

The same can be said for Detroit Public Schools Community District.  Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti sent this statement:

“We remain hopeful that the final budget cuts to education are on the lower end of 10 percent as opposed to 25 percent," he wrote. "We are confident that we will balance the budget, while protecting employee jobs and salaries and most importantly, student programming. At this point, what is sacrificed is the opportunity to provide reoccurring salary increases to employees.”

Districts say there is hope - and homework - for parents. 

"The parents understand they have a role to play. If they can make their voices heard to the legislature, it may impact ultimately what the final budget is going to be," Matthews said. 

The schools will have a better idea of what the per pupil funding cuts will be on Friday when the state holds its annual revenue estimating conference. K through 12 funding is on the agenda.