By J. PATRICK PEPPER
DEARBORN — Dearborn Public Schools could have to make another $6 million in cuts for the upcoming school year if Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s 2010 budget proposal is adopted.
The reductions would come on top of the $11 million deficit district officials already had projected for next school year.
Granholm presented her budget to the state Legislature Feb. 12, just three days after district officials outlined plans to the Board of Education for $10 million in cuts. She said the reductions came as the result of lower sales and income tax revenues, which make up about two-thirds of state school funding.
If the district is forced to cut all $17 million, it would represent nearly $70 million less in yearly school expenditures since 2000.
“These cuts would be devastating to our budget. We’ve already had to cut many good programs, and this would really just be devastating,” district spokesman David Mustonen said.
The reduction of several categorical funding sources would hit DPS particularly hard, he said. Dearborn is the only school district in the state to receive both “hold-harmless” and “at-risk” funding – known as 20j and 30a, respectively – and both would take larger-than-projected cuts under Granholm’s plan.
Hold-harmless funding was enacted in 1999 as an amendment to former Gov. John Engler’s 1994 school finance reform initiative, or “Proposal A” as it is commonly known. Its purpose is to allow a district to maintain its pre-Proposal A spending level if it exceeds the state maximum set by the measure. Granholm’s cuts would amount to a $617,000 reduction in this funding.
At-risk funding is given to students who exhibit low achievement on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program test in math, reading, or science or fail to meet curriculum objectives in English-language arts for Kindergarten through third graders.
Students also may qualify if they fall into two or more of the following categories: victim of child abuse or neglect; performing below grade level in English language and communications skills or mathematics; teenage pregnancy or parenthood; eligible for free or reduced-price lunch; or atypical behavior or attendance patterns or a family history of school failure, incarceration or substance abuse.
At-risk funding is spent on many programs, including summer school, extended day schooling, tutoring, social workers and nurses. Granholm proposes to cut roughly $5.8 million of the district’s 31a funding, a more than 80 percent reduction from last school year.
The bad budget news has district officials scrambling to look for more ways to reduce spending, while many parents have decided to let Lansing know what they think.
A representative in Granholm’s office said officials had received about 120 e-mails, phone calls and letters protesting the cuts, but pointed out that the cuts are statewide, not just in Dearborn.
“Governor Granholm is aware of the cuts facing Dearborn schools, but this is a time of shared pain when budgets are being cut everywhere across the state,” spokeswoman Megan Brown said.
Rep. Gino Polidori (D-Dearborn) said he knew the cuts were coming, but he was extremely disappointed when he found out their depth.
“I never dreamed that the cuts would be this deep,” said Polidori, who sits on the House Education Committee. “We’re hoping that when the stimulus money comes it can help with this, but I will do my best to fight for the city of Dearborn.”