Facing big deficit, state superintendent calls for federal aid to schools


LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — While school districts work to open their doors this fall, state leaders are anticipating one of the largest budgets cuts to school funding in Michigan history. 

In a virtual press conference Thursday morning, state Superintendent Michael Rice said the closures aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus have adversely affected state revenues across the country.

“In Michigan, the May revenue estimating conference showed a decline of $6 billion in revenue in the general fund and school aid fund combined, this year and next year combined,” Rice said.

Rice said for the school aid fund, there’s an estimated deficit of $2.93 billion over the two-year period. He that this translates to cuts near $685 per pupil for local school districts.

Rice said studies show Michigan schools are already underfunded, with most districts getting the minimum per-pupil funding of $8,111.

He said the potential cut would put many districts in a tough spot and could mean cuts in several areas, including staff reductions.

The State Board of Education is now calling for federal aid. 

“No child asked to be born during a pandemic. No child asked to grow up in part during the pandemic and no child’s education should be harmed because he or she did in fact grow up during a pandemic,” Rice said. “It is absolutely incumbent on Congress to make sure our children are protected and not forgotten at this moment.”

Districts like Grand Rapids Public Schools say they stand to lose $11 million.

“Absent immediate federal action, we cannot open our doors safely in the fall to students while still meeting their academic, social and emotional needs. We also know if schools are not open, many parents will have difficulties returning to work,” GRPS said in a release.

GRPS is now asking the community to advocate for additional funding from Congress to support students over the next few years. 

Rice also noted the digital divide when schools are forced to turn to remove learning. He said more federal aid could help bridge the gap between students who do and do not have access to technology at home.

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