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

Posted at 6:56 PM, Apr 09, 2024

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WXYZ) — Moms Andrea Paola Walker, Sonia Chawla and Najla August met 7 Action News reporter Faraz Javed outside A2 Steam Elementary School in Ann Arbor to share their frustrations about their kids' school that they collectively love.

"It is not your typical school. It is, in my opinion, the best school in Ann Arbor," Walker said.

"The common cliche saying, 'It takes a village to raise a child,' so this is our village," August said.

SONIA CHAWLA voices budget shortfall
Sonia Chawla talks with other moms and 7 Action News reporter Faraz Javed about potential layoffs in in the Ann Arbor Public Schools district. (April 9, 2024)

"So, it's not just important to us as parents, it's important to our children too," Chawla said.

Their worry stems from the Ann Arbor Public Schools district exploring the option of laying off some teachers and staff members after the recent announcement of a $25 million budget shortfall, which includes a $14 million accounting error.

"We want to know what is happening and how did we get here," Walker said.

voices ann arbor schools budget shortfall
Andrea Walker talks with other moms and 7 Action News reporter Faraz Javed about potential layoffs in in the Ann Arbor Public Schools district. (April 9, 2024)

Javed reached out to the district. A spokesperson told him that the clerical error is under investigation and that: "The deficit stems from three main historical factors, a loss of student enrollment over the past few years, an increase in staff, and an increase in staffing costs for all employees."

"Why are the teachers paying for an accounting error. And something that resonated with me, I heard a quote that said 'It's not our fault,'" August said.

NAJLA AUGUST school budget layoffs voices
Najla August talks with other moms and 7 Action News reporter Faraz Javed about potential layoffs in the Ann Arbor Public Schools district. (April 9, 2024)

But the problem goes beyond Ann Arbor. According to a recent study by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, over the next couple of years, schools could lose more than 5,000 teachers due to federal COVID-19 relief funding running out.

Read more about the study below:


Citizens Research Council o... by WXYZ-TV Channel 7 Detroit

"There is just a shy of a billion dollars left here in Michigan... And school districts need to spend that by September. It's a use-it-or-lose-it situation," said Thomas Morgan, a spokesperson for the Michigan Education Association.

Morgan says declining student enrollment numbers are complicating matters.

THOMAS MORGAN budget shortfall voices
Thomas Morgan, a spokesperson for the Michigan Education Association, talks with 7 Action News on April 9, 2024.

"Every school district is different. And it's important regardless of where that school district is that they are working closely with those front-line educators... to help ensure that our kids can still get a great education in our schools," Morgan said.

According to the Michigan Center for Educational Performance and Information, school districts in Detroit, Oak Park, Utica and Ann Arbor — to name a few — have experienced a heavy drop in enrollment since 2019.

But the power moms we spoke with say that instead of laying off educators, the focus should be on getting more kids to school.

Here more from the moms in the video player below:

Talking with Ann Arbor moms about potential layoffs in school district due to budget shortfall

"Many families have left this school in particular because there is just no after-school care. I guarantee if you hired some young college students to come take care of the kids and after-school day care... I know we can get more families in here," said Walker.

Meanwhile, Ann Arbor Public Schools hasn't made any decisions yet. But they will meet on Thursday at 7 p.m. to discuss the matter. It's open to the public, including submitting comments.

To learn more, visit the district's website.

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