Ann Arbor teachers demand transparency as board discusses layoffs, budget deficit

Tensions high at first meeting since board approved teacher layoffs last month
Posted at 10:56 PM, May 08, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-09 17:39:21-04

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WXYZ) — At the first school board meeting since teacher layoffs were approved, Ann Arbor teachers are speaking out.

The district said the end of COVID-19 relief funds, stagnant revenue growth and declining enrollment are to blame for a budget deficit. A $14 million accounting error also contributed to the shortfall totaling $25 million.

Educators made their voices heard during a rally outside a board meeting Wednesday night.

Ann Arbor teacher rally
Educators with Ann Arbor Public School rally about approved layoffs before a board meeting on May 8, 2024)

Last month, the board approved teacher layoffs. The budget has to be finalized by July 1.

In addition to the rally Wednesday, over 100 teachers attended the meeting. District board meetings are normally held at an administration building, but because of the amount of people attending, the meeting was moved to the auditorium at Huron High School.

About 110 people signed up for public comment to make their frustrations about the decision known.

Fred Klein Ann Arbor teacher rally
Fred Klein, president of the Ann Arbor Education Association, speaks with teachers during a rally about approved layoffs before a board meeting. (May 8, 2024)

“Stand up. Take the recommendations given to you by the staff and community and create a plan that does not include major layoffs,” educator Laura Publiski said.

Teachers also spoke out during the meeting last month hoping the board would not approve the layoffs. However, the board approved it with a 4-3 decision. It’s unclear how many teachers would be laid off and when.

Watch our story on last month's board meeting below:

Ann Arbor teachers protest looming cuts

The rally Wednesday night included union leaders, county representatives and many educators. The budget deficit wasn't on the agenda previously, but a motion to discuss it was added later in the day.

“Tonight, say when will we know if this going to happen and do it directly and clearly, so I can go to sleep tonight — please,” educator Jeff Demoss said to the board.

I spoke with Fred Klein, president of the Ann Arbor Education Association, before the meeting and he said teachers are not only concerned but also scared.

“Nobody’s getting much sleep. People are worried and scared,” Klein said. "People have taken jobs here and moved here from other communities and now, they’re not sure what’s going to happen to them.”

VIDEO: Ann Arbor moms worry as teacher layoffs loom across Michigan due to budget shortfall

Ann Arbor moms worried as teacher layoffs loom across Michigan due to low student enrollment

Some school board member seats will be on the November ballot. Teachers told us their votes will be impacted by how this situation is handled.

“I would definitely not want to leave, but it makes it hard when we feel like our administration doesn’t back us up,” said Meaghan Christopher, a speech therapist at Ann Arbor Public School.

Although layoffs have not yet started, some educators said they are already seeing pay cuts, specifically teacher assistants.

“I understand people want to hear about the budget, we are working quickly as possible," Board President Torchio Feaster said at the meeting.