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Published: Friday, 10/23/2009

Trim more, Granholm says

ASSOCIATED PRESS

LANSING - Gov. Jennifer Granholm ordered another round of funding cuts Thursday for public schools already hard hit by Michigan's state budget problems - reductions that Republicans say aren't necessary.

The Democratic governor said school funding would be slashed by $127 per student, or about $212 million in total, because of falling tax revenue. Schools will see the reduction late this year unless revenue is found within 30 days to avoid it.

"We have never seen times like this in Michigan, where we've had to cut like this," Ms. Granholm said.

Republicans say she is fabricating a school budget crisis in order to put pressure on them to increase taxes to raise more money for education. They say the governor is announcing the cuts too early.

"There is no need for a cut right now," said Matt Marsden, a spokesman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop.

Mr. Bishop sent a letter to Ms. Granholm a letter yesterday saying he was disappointed with her "misleading characterization" of the schools budget.

The latest cuts would come from a basic grant that provided schools with a minimum of $7,316 per student last fiscal year.

The cuts would be reflected in payments sent to schools Dec. 20 unless lawmakers raise revenue to replace it by late November.

The latest cuts follow two previously announced reduction plans.

On Monday, Granholm vetoed more than $51 million that would go to 39 of the state's wealthier districts, saying the state can't afford the payments. Those cuts are set to kick in Nov. 20.

The school aid bill signed by the governor also includes plans to cut school funding by the equivalent of $165 per student, along with other reductions.

The Michigan Association of School Administrators estimates that altogether the cuts to individual schools would range from $289 to $613 per pupil.

Schools say the cuts will lead to layoffs, crowded classrooms, and program reductions.

But Ms. Granholm made it clear she wants lawmakers to find revenue to avoid at least the cuts she announced yesterday and the cuts to the 39 wealthy districts.

"The Legislature needs to act now to find the revenue that is critical to our schools," she said. "We won't solve the serious school-funding problem we have in Michigan today unless we are honest about its magnitude."

The director of the nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency sent a memo to senators yesterday saying no cuts were needed to balance the public schools budget.



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