Traverse City Record-Eagle

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May 19, 2011

Gov., GOP chiefs agree on smaller school cut

LANSING (AP) — Leaders of the Republican-led Michigan Legislature and GOP Gov. Rick Snyder announced a budget deal Thursday that would reduce proposed cuts to public schools by as much as two-thirds.

Officials said at a news conference that some details of the plan need to be completed before votes are held in the state House and Senate. That is expected later this month.

Snyder's original budget plan called for a cut of $300 per pupil for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. The deal announced Thursday would give districts back $100 per pupil to help pay employee retirement costs, plus another $100 per pupil if a district adopts what officials call "best financial practices."

School funding cuts may be the toughest pieces for lawmakers to approve. Earlier versions of school aid budget plans narrowly passed the Legislature.

Snyder, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville and House Speaker Jase Bolger are among those working on the budget deal for the coming fiscal year. Cuts to public school funding would not be as deep as planned when Snyder detailed his original budget proposal earlier this year.

Terms of the reduced cuts were not good enough for some Democrats, who said they worry that public school funding cuts will force more teacher layoffs and program cuts hurting students. They don't want demands attached on how schools must spend the money affiliated with the tentative budget deal.

"It won't necessarily follow the kids into the classroom," said Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, leader of Michigan's Senate Democrats.

Democrats have limited ability to influence the state's next spending plan. Republicans hold a 26-12 edge in the Senate and a 63-47 advantage in the House.

Other elements of the deal are expected to include a 15 percent funding cut for university operations and a 4 percent cut for community college operations.

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