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Thursday, September 12, 2013

School aid spending cuts will harm state’s recovery

Extensive cuts by the state to fund schools has deepened the recession, slowed the recovery and will make Michigan less prosperous in the future, a study said Thursday (9.12).

Michigan has cut investment in K-12 schools by 9 percent since 2008, a deeper cut than 33 other states, according to a report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan policy research organization based in Washington, D.C.

“It’s very clear that states that have good schools and educated workforces reap the benefits through stronger economic growth,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “We are moving in the wrong direction by reducing our investment in our schools and students. These cuts have weakened our ability to educate our state’s kids. There will be consequences for Michigan’s economy,”

State revenue declined sharply during the recession. But instead of addressing budget shortfalls by taking a balanced approach that includes new revenues, Michigan relied very heavily on cuts to state services, including education, the study said.

Even as revenues have begun to recover, Michigan has continued to cut education funding leaving spending per student $572 below pre-recession levels, taking inflation into account.

Michigan’s K-12 education cuts hurt the state’s economy in the short- and long-term. The cuts slowed the economic recovery by causing both public- and private-sector job loss as school districts throughout Michigan laid off teachers and support staff, reduced pay for the remaining staff, and canceled contracts with private businesses.

“At a time when the nation is trying to produce workers with the skills to master new technologies and adapt to the complexities of a global economy, states should be investing more — not less — to ensure our kids get a strong education,” said Michael Leachman, director of state fiscal research at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and co-author of the report.

Jerry Wolffe is the advocate-at-large and writer-in-residence at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586-263-8700.

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