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House declines to pass K-12 budget with huge cuts

*Working against a midnight deadline, the State House could not muster enough votes to pass a School Aid budget that would have handed districts a $218 per pupil cut three months into their fiscal years.* The school aid bill, "HB 4447":http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?2009-HB-4447, emerged from a joint House-Senate conference committee last week including $482 million in cuts to K-12 funding, mostly in the form of a $218 per pupil funding cut. Part of the rationale for the deeper than expected cuts was to save some $180 million in Federal stimulus money to avoid deeper cuts next year - an election year. bq. Tell your lawmakers what you think! "Check out our action alert on the school aid budget by clicking here":http://capwiz.com/miparentsforschools/issues/alert/?alertid=14099486. The cuts in the proposed K-12 budget were a reflection of the unusual agreement between House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford Twp) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) to pass budgets that used cuts rather than new revenue to fill the expanding projected deficit. But several of program cuts that resulted from that agreement, such as cuts to revenue sharing to local governments, Medicaid reimbursement funds, and school aid, have sparked strong opposition. In the end, the bill failed by a vote of 2-106, as Republicans abandoned the measure once it became clear that there were not enough votes to pass it. Opposition to the deep cuts in the bill was bi-partisan, however. Rep. Jennifer Haase (D-Richmond) said "The school districts I represent are at the base foundation grant," Gongwer News Service reported. "This budget is not good enough. We must do more for our children," she added. Rep. Dick Ball (R-Laingsburg) said that the cuts, including reductions to intermediate school district funding, would endanger programs like early education. "We will destroy what we have built gradually and carefully," he said of the targeted education programs, such as middle school science and math. Countering arguments that the Federal stimulus money will be needed next year, Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith (D-Salem Twp.) said the real problem is legislators are "too timid, too frightened, too intimidated to do what people sent us here to do, which is lead." Arguing that new revenues were needed, she continued: "It's time for us to fund the new brains we want the state of Michigan to [have] if we are going to turn this slump around." The school aid budget will be sent to a new conference committee (though with the same membership), which is expected to recommend smaller cuts to school funding. In the meantime, a continuation budget that would give the Legislature another 30 days to hammer out a deal was in the works. However, the Senate version of the continuation budget included one month's worth of the cuts included in the original budget bill, in an effort to tweak the members of the House who had balked at the cuts.
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