School districts across the state are preparing budgets for the 2020-21 school year. This year will be challenging for all districts as expected shortfalls in state funding due to the COVID-19 pandemic could result in a loss of up to $650 per student or more.
At the June 8th Board of Education meeting Mr. Tom Wall, Executive Director of Business Services and Operations, presented the District’s budget plans for next school year. School districts are required to submit a balanced budget plan by June 30th of the current school year.
Anytime there are reductions in funding there is also much discussion and planning with our principals, union leadership, and administration in order to develop a plan that will have the least amount of impact on classroom instruction and preserve existing jobs. Utilizing alternative funding sources, not replacing those who are leaving due to retirement, delaying smaller capital improvements projects, and using existing fund balance dollars are just some of the strategies that we are looking at in order to develop a balanced budget for the 2020-21 school year.
Of course, as budget discussions occur it is not uncommon for ideas or suggestions to be incorrectly shared as if they were already decided. This occurred on Monday when several parents expressed their support for the music program at O.L. Smith middle School during the School Board meeting. We appreciate parents and former students expressing their continued support for the students and are disappointed these concerned parents were misled into thinking that a decision had already been made to cut the program. This is not accurate.
Each school determines the needs and interests of the students in the school. Based on those needs and interests, total school enrollment, and any budget constraints the school will then work with administration to determine staffing levels and class offerings.
Over the years, I have been a strong advocate for the Arts in the Dearborn Public Schools. Our Board of Education also supports the Arts in our District. Our administrative team will continue to work with our Principals to develop sound programs and strategies to support art, music, theater, and other programs that are part of a complete educational experience.
The State of Michigan may not be able to tell us our exact funding levels until late September or October, the time frame for when their budget must be approved. Until that time, we will continue to work with the projections we have to create a sound financial plan for the 2020-21 school year.