On Thursday, May 26, 2011, lawmakers in Lansing finalized the budget for the 2012 fiscal year, and in turn the highly controversial education cuts. Legislators agreed to approximately $564 million in overall cuts from the School Aid K-12 budget as well as cuts from post-secondary education affecting many school districts immensely. The School Aid K-12 budget provides funds to school districts, intermediate school districts (ISDs) and various other education related entities. The per student foundation allowance funding it provides accounts for over 80% of the state funding appropriated in the budget. Nearly 1.7 million full-time K-12 students are funded by Michigan's public education system.
Michigan's public schools were not always overwhelmingly funded by the state. Prior to 1994 per pupil funding was largely supplied by local property taxes from each district. The 1994 legislature along with Gov. John Engler developed Proposal A in an attempt to reconstruct the way school operations were funded. To limit the obvious disparity in per pupil spending among districts and to ensure stable and adequate revenues for school operations Proposal A was passed making funding for each school district more equitable.
The current finalized budget plan abates the state's minimum "per student foundation allowance" for public schools by approximately six percent (which equates to $6,846). This results in a $300 per student reduction in addition to the $170 cut Michigan legislators had already agreed to, totaling in $470 in per pupil loses. The 8.8 billion dollar education budget for FY 2012 is a significant drop from that of the previous years. Legislators did agree to offset the cuts by setting aside $155 million to help school districts pay their retirement cost. Schools may also apply to receive $100 per pupil as an incentive to implement the "best practices" for saving money such as consolidation of non-instructional services with other school districts.
State aid to public universities and community colleges will drop across the board as well. Michigan's 15 universities will see a decrease in funding by 15 percent (equaling approximately 213 million), and 28 community colleges will drop by 4.1 percent (about 12 million). Universities will also lose more funding if they fail to limit tuition increases to roughly seven percent this coming fall.
Many of the larger school districts such as Lansing Public Schools, and Grand Rapids Public Schools will face more than $4 million dollars in cuts from their budget. Michigan's largest district, Detroit Public Schools, will lose a staggering 25 million. It is likely that cuts as significant as these will lead to job loss, program cuts, increases in class sizes and a decrease in transportation. For example, about 425 students in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan may be without public transportation to school. These cuts will lead to limiting the amount of busses that serve the area and cut about 20 bus driver hours a day.
Republican legislators believe that theses cuts are a "necessary sacrifice." Sen. Howard Walker (R- Traverse City), who runs the K-12 budget in the Senate told the news media, "we tried as hard as we could to soften the blow", but cuts were necessary to balance the overall budget. Many Republicans believe also that as a state we were "living beyond our means" Gov. Synder's budget director John Nixon said, the 2012 budget along with the tax reforms puts the state back on track "we have a story to tell now, one of sound finances, an honest and predictable tax structure, a government that is living within it's means." Democrats say the bill "unnecessarily shortchanged public schools." Nonetheless more than 68% of voters opposed the cuts in a recent poll given by the Detroit Free Press and several thousand students, teachers, and other workers gathered at the state capitol building in Lansing to protest the cuts. Even the MEA (Michigan Education Association), the largest teachers union in the state, has launched a statewide TV ad campaign against the cuts to campaign against politicians for cutting schools.