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Superintendent Jazz Parks proposes plan for $20.4 million budget cut

At the Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting at Pioneer High School on Wednesday, superintendent Jazz Parks proposed a plan for $20.4 million from the $25 million budget deficit that was announced on March 13. 

Before the Board Meeting, there was a Pre-Board Rally organized by the Ann Arbor Education Association: the teacher’s union. 

“Deep down, we know it is out of love that we are here tonight,” Forsythe teacher Daniel Crowley said. “Are we pissed? Hell yeah, we are! Because when you are in the trenches day in and day out with people who pour their hearts out to care for the children in this community you do not allow them to be thrown under the bus. And you certainly do not allow them to be thrown under the bus by people whose job it is to support them.”

The AAEA also had Michigan State Representatives come in to speak at the rally. 

“We are with you as your legislators,” Representative Jason Morgan told the crowd. “We are with you as the teachers who are the heart of our schools along with our students. We are with you, standing up to make sure we are addressing the situation in a way that understands who is actually the heart and soul of our institution.”

  Last year, the state government made the largest increase in their investment in schools in decades, according to Morgan. 

“As Vice Chair of the Higher Education Committee, I have a front-row seat to ensure that every dollar possible goes into our school districts to keep supporting our teachers and keep supporting our classrooms,” Morgan told The Emery

Once the rally was finished, teachers and staff started to march into the building. 

“We want answers! We want answers!” they shouted as they walked in, holding signs. 

The Board meeting began at its scheduled time, 7 p.m, with Public Commentary. Following that, the Board moved ahead to Jazz Parks’ budget update, where she proposed a solution for the majority of the deficit.  

This included a revamped plan for Elementary Project Lead the Way, where it will be shifted into their specials schedule, along with art, library, music, and PE/health. Specials are also losing 30 minutes a day. This saves $1.2 million through a grant that they are receiving for PLTW.

Part of Parks’ proposal was also the elimination of World Languages at the elementary level, except for any IB schools where it is a requirement. This saves $400,000 for the district. 

“Until now, we didn’t think that was going to be on the table at all,” AAPS elementary Chinese teacher YuTing Yeh told The Emery. “Everybody knows that [learning multiple languages] is a basic skill for elementary schoolers. Nine of us support the whole elementary [language] program. That’s what makes Ann Arbor special. This is one of the programs that we are always very proud of because it shows our multicultural background. I don’t know why this is coming to the cutting board.”

The AAPS Elementary language teachers also all spoke during the Public Commentary. 

“I came here to Ann Arbor for the community here, for the diversity here,” Spanish teacher Britanny Luo said. “This limited program of fourth and fifth only seems too expensive to sustain for some reason in Ann Arbor. These nine employees are too expensive for this district.”

The proposal also included reducing co-teachers in Band and Orchestra classes that are “far below” the maximum class size limit of 100 at middle and high school levels, saving $224,000, reducing substitute coverage costs and two IB coordinators at the Bryant and Pattengill elementary schools, saving $525,000 annually and eliminating the A2 Virtual Elementary that was created in response to the pandemic. A2VE has 8 students and 1 teacher, and cutting it saves $150,000. 

Parks also proposed the closing of Middle School pools except for Mack Pool which is operated by the city of Ann Arbor. This saves $520,000 per year as well as additional repair costs that they had been paying. 

The largest part of the budget cuts, however, is a proposed $14.7 million cut through staff reductions. This includes 94 teachers out of 1457 total, 6 percent of the AAPS teaching staff. The total number of staff cuts made would be 141.5 out of 2248 total, which is 6 percent of all levels of staff at AAPS. 

Additionally, Parks proposed cutting $3.9 million through department reductions. This includes $2.3 million from vendor reductions and $1.6 from other department reductions.

Finally, $1.8 million from retirement savings comes from the overall reduction of staff.

AAPS assistant superintendent of human resources and employee relations Shonte Langford also announced that the district would be enacting a Voluntary Severance Policy. This is a “Letter of Agreement signed between the AAEA and AAPS allowing payment into a 403b plan,” the presented slide said. 

If staff sends notice of resignation or retirement by June 1, exits the district between June 14 and August 16 and is at least step 11 on the pay scale with 10 years of working with AAPS, the district will pay the following in two installments depending on the number of people who participate: 

  • 75 – 99 gives them $15,000 each
  • 100 – 124 gives them $20,000 each
  • 125 or more gives them $25,000 each

“We’ve heard it a few times tonight, that the $25 million mark is a fictional number,” AAEA President Fred Klein told The Emery. “They don’t need to cut that in one year. The district fund balance needs to get up to 5 percent, and we are at 1.9 percent at the end of this year. It seems like we don’t need to take drastic measures at this point yet to cut people off.”

The Board voted on having another meeting on Monday at 7 p.m. to vote on this proposal and finalize the plan. The location is still to be announced. 

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Satvika Ramanathan
Satvika Ramanathan, Editor-In-Chief
Satvika is a sophomore, and this is her second year with The Emery and fifth year of newspaper. In her free time, she likes hanging out with her friends, watching movies with her family, and traveling. She is one of the co-presidents of Huron’s Model UN team and participates in multiple other clubs at Huron. She loves collecting earrings and new music, and she is super excited to be one of the print co-editors-in-chief this year!
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