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Possible funding cuts to schools unacceptable

School budgets are challenging even in stress-free times, but these aren’t stress-free times.

And businesses and individuals aren’t the only ones facing financial difficulties because of the COVID-19 crisis and the related closures and shutdowns.

Michigan Sen. Wayne Schmidt, a Republican who chairs the Senate’s education budget subcommittee, warned Tuesday of a possible 25% cut in state funding for K-12 schools because of the pandemic.

About 40% of the $14 billion in state revenues for the school aid fund comes from state tax collections.

Per-pupil funding is around $8,000 per student in Michigan. That might sound like a lot, but sometimes it doesn’t go far enough.

So, dropping that amount by about a quarter would be devastating.

According to The Associated Press, the state is receiving $3 billion in federal assistance to combat COVID-19, but it can’t use the money to offset revenue lost because of the economic downturn.

Perhaps that should change. Even Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, we have read, is urging for flexibility.

It should be noted that the Democratic-led U.S. House on Tuesday unveiled a coronavirus relief belief of over $3 trillion that includes $500 billion for states to help prevent layoffs of public workers, cuts to services or tax hikes.

What would a 25% cut mean to schools?

It might be hard to pinpoint exactly where cuts would come in districts, but we strongly suspect layoffs and program cuts would result.

This is unacceptable. Although many districts are adapting to the distance learning that has been in place for weeks because of the pandemic, face-to-face education, in most instances, is the best, and to cut schools’ budgets would be devastating.

For instance, fewer teachers might mean more students would be crammed into classrooms, should buildings reopen in the fall for traditional learning. If social distancing protocols are still in effect, having more populated classes would make following those protocols difficult, if not impossible.

All this economic uncertainty probably will make school district staff’s jobs of creating a balanced budget this summer even harder.

If the coronavirus problem continues, how will that carry into the regular school year? Will distance learning have to continue?

We believe the federal government should make flexibility in coronavirus relief a top priority, with restrictions loosened on how federal pandemic funds can be spent.

Schools need every penny they can get.

— The Mining Journal (Marquette)

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