School districts across Metro Detroit have been scrambling for months to slash costs and adjust their budgets after state lawmakers dealt them a huge funding blow last fall, cutting per pupil funding by $165 per student and even more for higher-spending districts.
And after years of avoiding any cuts that would affect the classroom, many officials say they have no choice but to cut teachers this year.
... and came up with some numbers to try and count the human cost to our schools. Lay offs of teachers and staff, cuts to programs like music, art, busing and athletics, closing schools altogether, and increases to class size are not only undermining our current recovery, they are hurting our ability to compete in the future as well.
According to Michigan School Business Officials, a nonprofit group that represents school business officials statewide, 96 percent of school districts say they expect to lay off staff or leave open positions unfilled in K-12 public schools in the 2010-11 fiscal year, which starts July 1 for most districts, The number is up from 74 percent last year.
That means almost 4,000 more teachers, administrators and support staff would lose their jobs, according to the group. Twenty-one percent of districts also plan to close one or more school buildings, while 54 percent plan to eliminate programs or services just to make ends meet. Eighty-five percent of districts report that class sizes will increase because of staff cuts and closed school buildings.
4,000 more jobs eliminated. And these guys don't use a multiplier to count the indirect job loss associated with budget cuts; anyone that sells products or services to teachers, students, and other staff - right on down to the corner restaurant or store that relies on school traffic for the bulk of their business, those jobs are certainly on the line. You've seen the domino effect from the auto industry fallout; it's happening here as well. You just don't hear about it as often.
Some consolidation certainly is prudent. If you have an old, expensive to maintain building that is half-empty and you can move some kids to a school that is nearby, then by all means it should be done. But to increase class size just to eliminate teaching positions? You are short-changing the kids at that point, and some will start to fall through the cracks. The loss of extra curricular activities also deprives kids of a well-rounded education, and that will be reflected on their college applications when the time comes. These damages reverberate well into the future in ways that aren't taken into consideration when we make cuts today.
It's hard to keep a running total on education job loss because some of these teachers receiving pink slips in the next few weeks will be called back - but anyone that works in transportation, food service, custodial, or other school support staff best start looking for that new job. Schools also need to remember that Republicans are proposing another $118 per-pupil cut to the budget and have no intention on compromise, so administrators might have to turn around and do this again next year.
It's odd that we celebrate when GM announces 100 new jobs in Warren, or an LG Chem brings 400 new jobs to Holland - but no one is adding up the thousands of jobs that our lawmakers are eliminating when they refuse to fund education, health care and public safety. And it's really odd that a Mike Illitch is applauded for investing in a sports team during a time it was losing revenue, or Ford is applauded for investing in their product line "when its finances were strained", but Republicans still insist that we need to make cuts to the Michigan "product line" of our people and our quality of life.
So much for "running the state like a business". Republicans want to cut advertising, cut maintenance to the infrastructure, cut trained personnel, and cut the number of products to sell. They will not invest in the Michigan product at all, and would instead let it crumble to the ground. Does that sound like a recipe for "business" success?
Kudos to the Michigan School Business Officials for attempting to put some totals out there for all to see. Hope it helps people realize the damage that is rapidly adding up in human and business terms when lawmakers insist on "more cuts".