State of Education: Superintendents Question Surplus, School Aid Funding

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BARRY County, Mich. — Thornapple-Kellogg superintendent Tom Enslen said his district, which has 3,100 students, needs more funding.

Last year, he said the district cut a million dollars to balance the budget. This year, the deficit could be around a half million dollars.

“Still, we have class sizes that are bigger than they need to be, bigger than we’ve ever known them to be. And we would like to be able to provide relief. I’d like to pay our employees what they deserve,” Enslen explained.

Governer Rick Snyder’s remarks on investing in K-12 education earned him a standing ovation during his fourth state of the state address.

“We need to invest in our students,” he said to the legislature.

He added, “In the last three years, we’ve increased educational funding at the state level for K-12 each and every year to the point where we’ve invested $660 more per students than there was previously before I took office.”

However, for some, that $660 dollar number is fuzzy math. Enslen would like to see school aid funding reform.

“A portion of those dollars have been taken out of the school aid fund, and they’ve been addressed at the university and junior college level,” Enslen said.

He added, “To us that’s robbing the school aid fund. That’s taking money away from our kids.”

In his speech, the governer talked about a so-called surplus in state revenue that hasn’t been earmarked yet.

Enslen said, “We know that… well it actually depends on who you talk to… but we understand that there’s maybe a billion dollars surplus. We also know that there’s 330 [milion] of that that’s approximately in the school aid fund.

“The adjustments have been painful and it’s unsustainable, and without relief, we’re going to find school districts dying on the vine,” he said.

Enslen is looking at the so-called surplus as a ray of hope. However, the surplus’ potential downside is also his biggest concern.

“We’re hearing that some of this money or at least a good portion of it, might be one-time money. And so, that those dollars might not come to us as structural dollars. Only creates a trickle down effect,” Enslen explained.

It’s not clear yet how the so-called surplus will be spent.

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