‘More cuts to the top’: Parents protest proposed $20.4M staffing cuts at Ann Arbor school board meeting

Proposed staffing cuts would impact 141 employees

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The Ann Arbor school board has voted on how to compensate for a massive budget shortfall.

The district was trying to find a way to compensate for a $25 million deficit. With significant layoffs on the table, the vote has garnered a strong reaction.

The strong reaction was because 200 people signed up for public comment.

Before Monday (May 20) night’s special meeting began, parents protested with signs and chants saying, “More cuts to the top.”

Once inside, people had much to say about the board’s proposed staffing cuts, impacting 141 employees.

“Listen to parents,” said one woman. “We’re asking you to minimize impact to students, cut more from the top, and restore our trust.”

The district says it can continue its robust programming with those cuts, but educators who spoke out Monday night disagreed.

“I don’t view the library as a special, it as a resource that should be considered the beating heart of any educational institution,” said another woman.

The proposed cuts extend from librarians to world languages offered at the elementary level.

“When Chinese and Spanish were cut, nobody reached out to any Chinese or Spanish heritage family, which makes up about 20% of the community, this is also not equitable,” said another woman.

Physical education time would be reduced to 45 minutes a week, and music programs would also be impacted.

“The lower hours of assisted band and orchestra directors would hurt the music programs immensely after you promised not to hurt them,” said a man.

“Instead of nickel and diming our students-facing programs, take cuts at the administration level where the mistake took place,” said another woman.

The proposed cuts range from about $20.4 million. Interim Superintendent Jazz Parks said if they did more than that, it would have a major impact on classrooms and students.

However, parents, students, and teachers said Monday’s proposal would already have a significant impact.

The final vote was passed 7-1 after the Local 4 News went off the air.

“Dear Ann Arbor Public Schools Community,

At Wednesday evening’s Board of Education meeting, I shared a comprehensive district plan developed to address the $25 million shortfall we face. As I have said before, while I did not create this situation, I have remained committed to addressing it, and to do that, I needed to hear from our school community. I want to thank the thousands of staff members, community members, students and our Board for your feedback. We truly appreciate all of the input we received. That feedback we received helped in crafting the comprehensive district plan. You can view the proposed plan in full here.

Some core elements:

· The district will continue to offer robust programming, including our performing arts, music, environmental education, STEAM, and International Baccalaureate programs.

· We will maintain effective class sizes at AAPS as even with proposed staff reductions, there will be no drastic increases in class sizes. Class size will remain within contractual maximums.

· We will ensure we have continued resources for students with 504 and Individual Education Plans.

· In total, the plan calls for the reduction of 141 AAPS employees, which is six percent of our total workforce.

· The reductions in this plan total $20.4 million. I felt that going any farther at this time would begin to cut too deep and I want to keep classroom impacts to a minimum.

· One additional piece of the plan is a voluntary severance agreement we agreed to with our teacher’s union this week that we hope will reduce the overall number of teachers laid off.

While there is no requirement for the board to vote on this plan, I recommended that our school board do so. The board of education will hold a special meeting on Monday, May 20 at 7 p.m. at Pioneer High School with the purpose of addressing the comprehensive budget plan.

As I have said from the beginning, my focus when making reductions has been to do them in a way that minimizes impacts on our students, programs and the classroom. I know that doesn’t make any of the recommendations less painful. This has been a challenging time and none of us wish we were here. Our current challenges provide us an opportunity to become a more focused, efficient and effective district operationally and I remain confident we can and will emerge a stronger Ann Arbor Public Schools together.”

Interim Superintendent Jazz Parks

About the Authors

Pamela Osborne is thrilled to be back home at the station she grew up watching! You can watch her on Local 4 News Sundays and weeknights. Pamela joined the WDIV News Team in February 2022, after working at stations in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.

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