With over a billion-dollar shortfall in the Michigan School Aid Fund as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Grand Rapids Public Schools officials say the district is facing school closures and massive layoffs without federal assistance. But with a June 30th deadline approaching, time is running out. According to Grand Rapids Public Schools officials, it would mean reducing the budget by $650 per student, the most in recent memory.
In addition, the budget woes will force massive staff layoffs, dramatic cuts to school programs, and the closure of a number of schools in the district.
Another conundrum the district faces, as students return to in person classes and safety measures need to be put into place, classes need to be reduced in size…and how does GRPS do that when it’s being forced to fire teachers instead of hire more.
John Helmholdt is GRPS’ communication director, and offers what superintendents across West Michigan say is the only hope.
“What is the solution? One key solution is help from the federal government,” Helmoldt said. “Notably, of the $2 trillion, from the Cares Act, less than 1% went to public schools.”
On Tuesday, Republicans who control the Michigan Legislature unveiled a $1.3 billion one-time funding boost to come to the rescue of public schools across the state. However, Helmholdt say, the Board votes on the budget on Monday, and with state law requiring schools to pass budget’s by June 30th, the time for discussion is over.