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West Michigan chambers of commerce ask Congress for more K-12 funding in wake of pandemic

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Posted at 4:47 PM, Jul 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-06 16:47:11-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Several organizations representing the West Michigan business community are calling for more federal support for schools in the wake of $3 billion in shortfalls between the general and school aid funds.

In addition to providing additional funding for schools, the organizations say Congress should loosen restrictions on already provided funds through the CARES Act.

“Without additional financial support from the federal government, schools will be required to make significant cuts,” said Jane Clark, president of the Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce. “These cuts will have a negative impact on the safety of students and the support they need to be successful.”

The billions of dollars in shortfalls translates into a $650 per student reduction, the organizations said in a news release.

That could mean forced staff layoffs, increased class sizes, reduced student support services and possibly even school closures, the release said.

Schools last faced such drastic cuts during the Great Recession in 2008. At that time, Congress passes multiple stimulus packages, including one in 2010 that directed more than $1.5 billion toward Michigan’s K-12 system.

Some economists say the coronavirus pandemic will hit the economy twice as hard.

Michigan’s chambers of commerce say schools may need an addition $3-5 billion over the next three fiscal years.

“As we all work through this pandemic, we will continue to have a need for skilled graduates,” said Cindy Larsen, president of Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce. “Funding cuts would be devastating to our schools' efforts to educate children and create a foundation for a strong economic return.”

Organizations calling for federal action include the Grand Rapids Chamber, Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses, Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce, Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Wyoming Kentwood Chamber of Commerce along with The Chamber of Grand Haven, Spring Lake and Ferrysburg.