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School Year Could Begin With No State Budget

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The school year is about to begin in Michigan without contracts between many districts and teachers. That’s because the state Legislature has not adopted a K-12 schools budget to let school boards and teachers unions know how much money they’ll have to work with.

David Crim with the Michigan Education Assocation says more than 130 districts represented by the teachers’ union don’t have contracts.

“Tens of thousands of school employees across the state have expired contracts,” he says. “Districts are taking a wait-and-see approach because the Legislature did not pass an education budget before taking a long summer break.”

Don Wotruba with the Michigan Association of School Boards says schools are finding different ways to adapt. He says some school boards are working with last year’s numbers. He says some are waiting to bargain.

“For some, they will just sit out of this and say, we just can’t agree on a new contract,” he says. “We don’t think it’s prudent to lock up the school district’s money when we don’t know how much money we’re receiving.”

Crim says his union has agreements with 157 school districts that have expired. By law, teachers are not allowed to strike. But Crim says school boards can’t balance their budgets without knowing what’s coming in state aid.

Wotruba says it’s frustrating for school officials as they head into the new academic year without knowing how much to expect in state aid. He says this is the first that’s happened in eights years – since Governor Rick Snyder and GOP-led legislatures wrapped up budgets early.

Now, the governor is a Democrat, and while the Legislature is under Republican control, the leaders are new.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Legislature’s Republican leaders say their budget discussions continue.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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