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School officials face uncertainties in funding

Published 9:14am Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Niles Daily Star

Though news from Lansing may give a little shape to the reductions in state aid that will affect school districts all over Michigan, nowhere is the severity of those cuts evident than in the concerned faces of school officials wondering how they’ll make the most of what resources they do have.

That concern was seen Monday night at the Brandywine Community Schools Board of Education meeting, where the board was given a breakdown of the challenges that lay ahead.

“Every single day we get more news from Lansing,” Superintendent John Jarpe said. “It’s never really good news.”

Looking at a school aid balance sheet, school board officials were told that estimated revenues for the 2008-2009 school year sat at $13.4 million and are expected to decrease for the 2009-2010 school year to $12.9 million.

Districts all across the state are well into their budgeted year and will have to make necessary adjustments when lawmakers in Lansing finalize the state’s budget, causing concern and headaches for administrators and educators.

The best case scenario, board members were told, would be a $165 reduction in state aid per student for the current school year – the worst case scenario being a $310 reduction.

For the 2010-2011 school year, a $224 shortfall per student would be considered the best case scenario while a $600 reduction would be considered worst case. Those figures are not estimated as an addition to what current year reductions would be, rather they are cumulative figures.

Either way, school officials across the state of Michigan are going to face tough economical times for some years to come.

Brandywine could face a shortfall of $636,00 for this year.

“There’s nothing more critical than getting more students in here,” board member Dennis Cooper said. “Nothing.”

The presentation was given to the board the same day the State Board of Education voted in favor of a resolution that encouraged state school districts to “re-imagine” the pre-K-12 education system and “consolidate services.” The resolution also asks Governor Granholm to find alternative ways to reduce those projected cuts to schools.

“We have to keep the schools functioning and the students learning,” State Board of Education President Kathleen Straus said. “The reality is that the funding for schools has dropped. We have to restructure the system to make it sustainable.”

H1N1 will not force school closure
The spread of H1N1 was also up for discussion Monday night, though Jarpe painted a relatively calm picture at Brandywine.

“As you know,” he said. “Several districts in the area did have to face closing.”

However, Jarpe said, “at no point did any of our schools … really fall below 75 percent (attendance).”
The exception was the Bell Education Center for alternative and adult education – which often has a gap in attendance figures when compared to the other schools in the district.

Officials would continue to monitor attendance, Jarpe said. Parents have been diligent about picking up makeup work for ill students at home, MEAP and makeup testing concludes this week and the district continues to take preventative measures against the spread of the virus such as keeping sanitizer available in every classroom.

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