Lansing Board of Education struggles with budget cuts

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By Devyne Lloyd
Lansing Star staff writer

The Lansing school district has been forced to make serious budget cuts and according to Superintendent T.C. Wallace, it’s all Governor Rick Snyder and the state’s fault.
“If the state would just leave our School State Aid funds alone, we would not be looking at such potential funding devastation in our public schools,” said Wallace in a letter to parents.

According to Wallace, Snyder and the state have been borrowing money from the School State Aid, a fund set up for public schools, and placing the funds in other state-funded programs. Wallace also feels Snyder has no intention of paying the money back to the schools, as Snyder proposed the shift of funds. Snyder could not be reached for comment.

The proposed budget for the 2011-2012 school year was approved by the school board on June 29 and went into effect July 1. Although the district has reduced the budget by over $40 million over a four year span, the deficit is still quite lofty. According to the resolution for adoption, the budget deficit is currently $178,336. The total deficit is projected around $25 million.

The district isn’t completely to blame. Upon entering office, Snyder’s budget proposal included a $470 per student reduction in public school funding. In addition, Snyder made it mandatory for schools to increase retirement benefits, which adds another $230 reduction per student.

The district was already struggling before Snyder announced more cuts to the education fund. “We have reduced staff across the board in all support areas including administration, classroom teachers, custodial, clerical, food services, transportation, and media services while leaving class sizes virtually untouched,” said Wallace.
Back in April, Wallace asked teachers to make some concessions in order to balance the budget. The teacher’s union accepted the terms and pay cuts were taken by the teachers. Two administrators were also laid off, and the remaining administrators agreed to a 10% pay cut. 325 employees were also laid-off in an effort to balance the budget.

Mayor Virg Bernero was pushing the board to bring in an emergency financial manager. “A District that is [in trouble] has the right or the opportunity to proactively call in an emergency financial manager before you go over the cliff. The legislation provides that and it’s a proactive approach rather than a reactive approach,” said Wallace, who is against bringing in outside help, although both the board and the district are in favor of the emergency financial manager.

The school board also voted to close Woodcreek Elementary back in April, despite the school winning National Magnet School of Excellence five years straight. Students will be sent to the Dwight Rich Middle school, which will become a K-8 school instead of just a middle school. C.W. Otto Middle school and Bingham Elementary were both up to be closed but will remain open, while Harley Franks Elementary closed over the summer of 2011.

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