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Strange Days, Indeed - School cuts disallowed?

*State officials are saying that cuts to schools may be disallowed under the federal stimulus legislation.*

Michigan schools were scheduled to get a $59 cut in per-pupil funding next year, in the governor's proposed budget. Many specific programs for K-12 education were also cut or eliminated, and funding for higher education was also reduced. But officials are now saying that cuts to education may have to be removed from the budget for Michigan to be eligible for federal stimulus money. Senate Fiscal Agency head Gary Olson told members of the Senate Appropriations committee that the budget would have to keep K-12 per pupil and higher education funding at current levels to comply with the conditions of the federal aid. A spokeswoman for Gov. Granholm said that their interpretation was different: that federal money had to be used to make education funding whole before other uses could be considered. Both the SFA and the Governor's office agree that specific program cuts (including some special education funding and other targeted initiatives) were still allowed under the rules. Still unclear is the fate of changes to so-called "20j" funding, which brings higher-spending districts up to their allowed per-pupil level. The executive budget proposal changed the formula for calculating these grants, which would effectively reduce them in coming years.

The difficulty, of course, is that the hole in the school aid budget is unlikely to go away when the federal aid runs out in two years. The governor's position seems to be that the budget needs to reflect these realities, though federal funding can be used to soften the blow for a while.

More details in an upcoming report.

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