EAST GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The East Grand Rapids Public School District is trying to balance its budget through cuts, but parents are trying to fight back.
A group of parents organized a yard sale after learning last Thursday that elementary school foreign language, gym and elementary art might be on the chopping block.
“We’ve just relied on the generosity of the people coming through here today so an item that costs $5 people are paying $30 for it, they just want to support the schools,” said Anne Petruzzi, one of the moms who organized the sale.
Everything was donated, and nothing had price tags — meaning everything cost what people wanted to pay.
But with things like a matching $5,000 donation, the one day yard sale total was about $18,000 and counting. All of that money will go to the school district to try to off set budget cuts.
“Now we’re down the programs that really hurt and really impact child development,” said Petruzzi. “I think that a lot of people in this community rest back on the laurels that we do live in a wealthy community.”
She said she thinks some people were shocked at the district’s levels of funding.
The hole in the budget for programs those parents are trying to fill — elementary education, gym and art — is more than $250,000.
District leaders stressed that the cuts aren’t something that they want, but rather something that the district needs.
In order not to dip into the district’s fund balance, EGRPS plans to cut more than $700,000 out of next school year’s budget. If the proposed cuts go through, it would mean five teachers would be laid off, and 14 others reduced from full time to part time. Secretarial staff would also be cut by two, with a third sectary moving from full to part time.
The proposed cuts also call for a 10 percent reduction of all building and department budgets, restructuring of special education, and reducing the high school guidance counseling department by one.
The proposed cuts are after the district factored in more than $250,000 raised by the EGRNOW! Campaign, an effort started by the East Grand Rapids Community Foundation in 2012, to fill budget deficits from community donations. These dollars helped ensure that elementary language, art and gym weren’t completely cut, but rather put on a shifting schedule. Those modifications would still mean nine teachers would move from full time to part-time positions.
The board meeting ran more than three hours Monday night, although no decisions were made. Public comment lasted about an hour. There is another board meeting scheduled for next week. The fiscal year ends June 30.