Monroe County educators worry over potential state funding losses

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Capital News Service
LANSING — Monroe County education administrators are on the edge of their seats anticipating the outcome of the state budget and how it will affect the Monroe County Intermediate School District.
The school district might lose about $5 million in foundational funding for the next school year, said Nancy Swanson, assistant superintendent of MCISD.
“That’s $200 per student throughout the entire county,” Swanson said. “It’s a major loss.”
The MCISD consists of nine local school districts, including Monroe, Summerfield, Ida, Jefferson and Airport Community Schools. It also covers 14 non-public schools, among them, Holiness Christian School in Petersburg, St. Anthony School in Temperance and Pathway Christian School in Monroe.
The MCISD provides resources of special education, general education, and business services to its constituent districts. It also works closely with local businesses, the government and the Monroe County Community College.
Swanson also said the district is in limbo trying to plan for next year’s budget.
“It’s really difficult to plan because we just don’t know right now,” she said.
The ISD will have to make necessary budget adjustments such as laying off staff and cutting programs if the indications prove to be true.
“It’s all just speculations right now and that makes it hard for schools to prepare for next year,” Swanson said.
One of the major difficulties of waiting on the budget is the turnaround time the school district has to adjust.
“Our budget must be adopted by June 30,” Swanson said. “If we don’t get our information until May it is hard to adjust our budget in so little time.
” T.J. Bucholz, public information officer for the State Board of Education, said administrators should stay optimistic.
“Governor Engler didn’t mention the education cuts much in the State of the State Address for a good reasonÑthey are still working on it,” he said. “But we are optimistic that we will be able to preserve some program funding for children.”
Legislation is still waiting for Engler’s budget recommendation so not much can be said before Feb. 7 when he is expected to release it.
Sen. Leon Stille, R-Spring Lake, a member of the Senate Education Committee, said schools should plan ahead by cutting corners and saving money any way they can.
“Our main goal is to provide the primary foundational funding, which is about $6,500 per student,” Stille said. “We were projected to increase that funding by $200 per student, but it’s highly unlikely that will happen.”
Sen. Ken DeBeaussaert, D-Macomb, a member of the House Appropriations and Reapportionment committees, said school districts that are worried about funding cuts should hold their legislators accountable to Proposal A, the state constitutional amendment adopted in 1994.
“According to the promises of Proposal A, the state has the lion’s share of funding responsibility,” he said. “Since schools can’t go to private citizens for extra millage, then the state should pick up the bill. If I were a school district (administrator) I would hold my legislators and governor’s feet to the fire. Status quo funding or no increase is really a cutback when schools have rising costs.”
Rep. Gene DeRossett, R-Manchester, is optimistic there will be an increase in per student funding for the next fiscal year.
“The number one issue in the state is the education of children, ” he said. “Everyone here is committed to making sure that education funding is held harmless.”
DeRossett said though it is a constitutional mandate to balance the budget, funds will be taken from the rainy day fund before money from education is cut.
“The governor has given us a lot of hope for the future,” DeRossett said. “I think in the second and third quarter of this year the economy will expand and revenue will increase. When that happens, the educational funding will take care of itself.”
© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism

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