GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Both East Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Public Schools spent Monday night trying to figure out budget shortfalls.
Both will have to do more with less -- but each faces unique problems and with them, unique solutions.
GRPS has to deal with declining student enrollment year after year. For the upcoming year, West Michigan's largest district estimates between 400 and 600 fewer students will walk through district doors.
On Monday, GRPS's school board spent another night talking about tough choices -- trying to figure out what they want to keep versus what they can keep.
"I think my problem is every one of these is something I don't want to do," said board member Maureen Quinn Slade during one of the night's many discussions.
During part of the special board meeting, board members each got slips of paper with budget concerns on them. Interim Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal wanted board members to decide how important each item was to them. The papers showed what the item was, how much it costs, if it's currently in the projected budget, and pros and cons of each.
For example, elementary art and music would cost nearly $1.3 million and currently was in the projected budget. Pros are that the electives would help GRPS compete with charters and they "offer valuable academic service." The con listed was the cost.
Just a few miles down the road, East Grand Rapids was facing its own budget shortfall of more than $1 million. On the chopping block were things like elementary language instruction.
To make up some of the shortfall, East Grand Rapids decided to take advantage of a resource they haven't before -- parents.
East Grand Rapids board president Brian Ellis said in the past, when budget shortfalls would come up at events like PTA meetings, inevitably there would be a parent offering to 'write a check.'
Now, the situation has gotten severe enough that the district decided to take advantage of that opportunity.
"Why are we saying no? People want to step forward and help. And so we formalized it, and this is what resulted in 60 days," said Ellis.
In those about two months, through a fundraising campaign called East Grand Rapids The East Grand Rapids Schools Foundation was able to raise more than $500,000 for the district.
Most of the money, according to a presentation at Monday's board meeting, came from parents. That money will go directly to save things like elementary Spanish and jobs.
Even with the funds, the district is still facing a more than $700,000 shortfall.
When asked if a fundraising campaign like this sustainable, Ellis responded:
"If we're still doing this three years down the road, then public education has far bigger problems," but went on to say he is optimistic about public education.
A former teacher accused of having inappropriate contact with a student entered a plea Monday.
The Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education discussed Phase 2 of the district's Transformation Plan at a special meeting Monday afternoon.
Is your child safe when riding in the car? Results from a new study show that fewer Michigan drivers are buckling their kids up safely in car seats or booster seats.