BCS superintendent expresses state budget concerns

BALDWIN - Although often feeling a bit insulated from the issues and problems facing other school districts around the state, Baldwin Community Schools officials and planners can’t ignore the budget realities affecting all of public education.

Things are tough, and BCS district superintendent Randall Howes is concerned the situation is only going to get tougher - even if the Baldwin district isn’t in the direct line of fire.

“The budget battle is looming and legislators are trying to find some way to make cutbacks so that the state budget can balance,” said Howes referring to the coming budget discussions between the legislature and governor’s office.

“Public schools are certainly familiar with that process. Over the past several years, schools have continually tightened our belts as resources have become more and more limited.”

But cutting back and belt tightening to an uncomfortable degree haven’t necessarily helped.

Howes says the situation is becoming desperate in many school districts.

“This year, many schools are absolutely on the edge of a funding cliff and will plunge to their extinction if Governor Snyder’s budget proposal moves forward,” he pointed out.

“Fortunately, due to careful planning and foresight, Baldwin is not among the endangered districts. We are, however, most certainly facing some even more difficult times.

“If the governor’s proposed budget moves forward, Baldwin will need again to consider consolidation of services and cuts to some vital programs and services. And all of this is happening at a time we are pushing ahead to prepare all kids for college and careers.”

While there is never a good time or reason to be “pushed to the edge of a cliff”, Howes says recent budget shifting makes the situation even more frustrating.

“The big reason for this huge funding cliff in the current budget is that the governor’s budget proposal takes $900 million from the state’s school aid fund to support community colleges and universities,” he noted.

“When Proposal A was passed in 1994, the voters in the state were told that the School Aid Fund was to be used solely for K-12 education and that it would protect funding for those public schools in good times and in bad ones.

“We are now facing the bad times and memories are short.”

Whatever the case, change is on the horizon - and not all change is good.

Howes believes, however, that some of the financial damage to public education can be limited or, at least, controlled.

“If voters in this state contact their legislators and tell them to stop the raid on the School Aid Fund and keep funding for K-12 public education in place, we can still avoid this crisis in public education,” he said.

“If people don’t act now, some school districts, like Free Soil, will become a part of history instead of a part of the future.

“Cutbacks are necessary and we all must make some sacrifices, but cuts this dramatic to K-12 education will cost our state

dearly.”

Despite the dark picture, Howes is convinced the future is still bright for Baldwin Community Schools.

“Baldwin will survive,” he said with confidence.

“But with the Baldwin Promise in place which gives every Baldwin student the chance and a promise to be able to afford to attend a Michigan college, it would be sad and unwise if the funding from our state makes it more difficult to have those kids be ready for college.

“Supporting colleges at the expense of K-12 education is most definitely putting the cart before the horse.”