Lawmakers warn Michigan schools to prepare for significant budget cuts

Budget shortfall could mean 25% cut in classroom

A new crisis is emerging for Michigan schools, and it has nothing to do with distance learning. A massive budget shortfall could mean as much as a 25% cut in the classroom.

DETROIT – A new crisis is emerging for Michigan schools, and it has nothing to do with distance learning. A massive budget shortfall could mean as much as a 25% cut in the classroom.

The dire assessment amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic could turn into a harsh reality come next school year. The timing is only making the situation worse.

UPDATE -- May 12, 2020: Michigan coronavirus cases up to 48,021; Death toll now at 4,674

Since we’ve all been shut inside for the last two months, there’s not a lot of money coming in for schools, but if you look farther down the line, the situation looks even more bleak.

The state of Michigan provides about $8,000 per pupil funding. The best-case scenario right now is that it would drop to $7,200, and the worst-case scenario is that it drops to $5,600.

Those numbers come from Senate K-12 Appropriations Budget Committee Chairman Wayne Schmidt, of Traverse City.

“We’re looking at somewhere, you know, estimates as high as $6-8 billion short over the next year to 18 months,” Schmidt said.

Local 4 contacted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office and spoke with director Chris Kolb.

“We need greater flexibility on existing federal funding that will allow us to use those dollars to replace lost revenue,” Kolb said. “Without added flexibility or new funding from the federal government that provides direct aid to help states address revenue shortfalls, we will have to take a hard look at everything in the budget, including education and other key priorities."

Schmidt said Michigan can’t count on the federal government.

“Our hospitals are ready for any surge or second wave, if you will,” Schmidt said. “They’re prepared, now what we need to do is get businesses back to work, of course, in a safe and minimal-risk fashion.”

What’s next? On Friday there will be a revenue estimating conference, which is when officials in Lansing look at what they have in the bank and what they can expect to come in the rest of the year. They’ll get a better picture of just how bad the situation is, and expectations are low.

Here is a statement from Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti:

We remain hopeful that the final budget cuts to education are on the lower end of 10% as opposed to 25%. 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. Prior to COVID and its impact on the economy, we intended to, once again, increase employee salaries this year. Right now our focus will be to protect jobs, current salaries, and student programming. It is time that the Governor and Legislature work together to balance everyone’s safety and jumpstarting the economy. The polar positions of both are negatively impacting the state and the education budget will be one of many sacrifices without collaborative, problem solving based leadership.”

About the Authors:

Rod Meloni is an Emmy Award-winning Business Editor on Local 4 News and a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional.

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.