Escanaba approves teacher cuts

ESCANABA – The Escanaba School Board has approved a resolution to lay off teachers due to decreased state funding and increased expenditures. The action was taken during a recent special school board meeting.

The board had previously approved the reduction of approximately 30 positions district-wide, although a separate resolution for the 13 teachers affected by this reduction needed to be approved, explained Escanaba Superintendent Michele Lemire.

During her superintendent’s report, Lemire addressed a recent report that K-12 education throughout the state will receive a 3 percent increase.

“It’s a concern because I want to show what it really means for us,” she said.

The district received $6,966 per pupil in its foundation allowance for the 2012-13 school year, though a proposed budget for 2013-14 shows a $60 increase in the foundation allowance to $7,026 per pupil. Though the district is planning for a student count of 2,474 for next year, this number is an estimate as the school won’t know the exact number until classes begin.

“The important part to remember is our foundation allowance is the sure bet money that we’re getting for kids,” said Lemire. “There’s no strings attached to it. It’s just the money we use to operate and that’s where we get most of our funding is through that foundation allowance.”

However, Lemire said there are additional costs that should be factored into the equation.

For instance, last year the district received a cost offset of $37 per pupil to help with retirement costs to the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System – an offset the school will not receive this year.

Lemire said the district also faces an additional $33 increased MPSERS payment to the state.

“Included in the state’s proposal, they’re issuing an additional retirement payment to us so it’s looking in their budget like it’s revenue to K-12 educations but then they’re asking schools to pay it right back to them,” she explained.

However, Lemire did note Escanaba is slated to receive a $50 per pupil one-time equity payment and the district does expect to receive an additional $52 per pupil for meeting seven of eight best practices. And though they will not know if they received extra per pupil money linked to student performance they received last year, they hope to receive this funding in 2013-14 in the best-case scenario.

“All in all, we’re going to get about $34 more per student based on their plan,” said Lemire.

When factoring that amount with the projected number of students, that means an increase in funding of $84,116, but is nearly offset by having to pay the extra MPSERS money, which amounts to $82,600.

With the state’s funding plan along with declining enrollment, the district expects $307,762 less in revenue, while they also face a $1 million issue from when they spent money out of their fund balance to operate in 2012-13.

“That’s why we have to lay staff off,” said Lemire.

Thirteen teachers were personally notified Wednesday that they will be laid off and are included in the resolution approved at the meeting.

“The district reviewed a variety of factors to make these reductions,” said Lemire. “We reviewed our teachers’ evaluations, along with our teachers’ certifications, endorsements, degrees, trainings, experience, and skill, and strengths to determine the best fit for the positions we need. Obviously, we would keep every single one of them if the district budget could manage it.”

Lemire said if the district experiences a better student count or receives more money, it hopes to recall some teachers back to their positions.

In addition to the teachers affected by the layoffs, 4.3 custodians, 10 program aides, and one non-union position have also been reduced.