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Cuts too deep, schools say

State budget to slash up to $3.86 million

May 11, 2011 - If cuts approved by Michigan House of Representatives take place, Clarkston schools would lose about $3.86 million.

That's too much, said Steve Hyer, Clarkston Board of Education president.

"It is unconscionable to think our policy makers are not prioritizing education in this state," Hyer said. "For our state to drive education reform through cuts is completely irresponsible. It is further negligent on their part to impose a one size fits all approach to reform to each school district in this state."

Education cuts are part of Gov. Rick Snyder's two-year plan to cut $1.8 billion from the state budget. Snyder's Executive Budget for education totals $13.8 billion, including $12.2 billion in funding for K-12 school districts, $1.4 billion for higher education and $296 million for community colleges.

"This plan is about moving away from the outdated model of the past and giving teachers and students the tools they need to succeed in the future," Snyder said in a press release.

Snyder said Michigan ranks 21st in the country in total current expenditures per-pupil, but ranks 39th in the nation in fourth grade math proficiency and 34th in reading proficiency.

"Our educational system is not giving our taxpayers, our teachers, our parents or students the return on investment that it should," the governor said. "Instead of focusing so heavily on funding levels, we need to talk about what really works and what doesn't when it comes to helping kids learn."

Superintendent Dr. Rod Rock said he is angry and disappointed with state elected officials.

"It's left me wondering about the long-term agenda of these elected officials," Rock said. "First emergency financial managers, now cuts in funding, what's next? Is this the beginning of the end of public education as we know it – neighborhood schools, children, and teachers?"

Proposal A was set up in 1994 to protect school funding, Hyer said.

"They are looking to actually take revenues from the School Aid Fund to fund higher education and community colleges," he said. "The School Aid Fund was set up with dedicated revenue streams so this kind of activity could not occur."

Rock, board members along with parents and district employees began lobbying legislators in February, when Gov. Snyder announced his budget proposals. Proposed reforms include cuts of up to $470 per student. With an enrollment of 8,210 students, that means cutting up to $3.86 million to Clarkston schools.

Legislators meet for an official revenue estimating conference on May 16. Rock said Clarkston should wait until then before making cuts.

"It is very likely more money than we had anticipated will be collected," he said. "These monies should flow directly to the K-12 schools to help us employ teachers and keep class sizes as low as possible."

"In Clarkston, we have continued to do whatever we can do with the resources we are allocated to give kids an excellent education," said Hyer. "We will continue to deliver an excellent educational experience to all of our students. We will make the most of what we are given moving forward."

Clarkston administrators will continue to voice their concerns to Lansing.

"Each child of ours deserves an excellent education," said Rock. "Education is a fundamental right. It is my responsibility to the community, teachers, district employees, administrators, parents, and students to ensure an excellent education for every child."

Clarkston schools' 2011-2012 budget year starts July 1. The state's budget year starts Oct. 1.

Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.
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