Michigan Schools to Receive $50 Million

Plan to Reduce Class Size Too Expensive, Say Critics

Michigan schools will receive over $50 million in federal aid to reduce elementary school class sizes in the 1999-2000 school year. It's all part of President Clinton's $1.1 billion initiative to cut student-to-teacher ratios in classrooms across the country.

Shelley York Rose, communications director for the Oakland County Intermediate School District, praised the federal initiative. "Anything that moves us closer to lowering class sizes and improving instruction is consistent with the direction that Oakland County school districts are taking," Rose told the Detroit Free Press.

The $50 million aid package is expected to allow nearly 1,300 new teachers to be hired into Michigan schools at an average yearly salary of $38,692. While both Republicans and Democrats in Congress support class size reduction efforts, critics warn that the federal initiative will require a significant financial commitment from the states.

"The bottom line is that state and local governments will pay dearly to fulfill Clinton's promise to put 100,000 teachers on the job in America's classrooms," said Scott Hodge, a senior fellow for tax and budget policy at Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation (CSEF), a Washington, D.C.-based education and research group.

Using teacher salary data provided by the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers unions, CSEF calculates that if Michigan wishes to retain the new federally funded teachers for five years, per-capita taxes will have to be increased $43 to raise the required $419 million in state funds.

But if the federal government ends its financial support for the teachers over the five years, per-capita taxes will have to be increased still further, to $56, to provide $543 million to pay for the new teachers, according to CSEF.

"If Washington does not extend the program beyond [the 1999-2000 school year], state and local governments will be forced to contribute $19 for every $1 of federal funds," said Hodge. "Even if Washington continues funding for the teachers program over the next five years, states will still be liable for $3 for every $1 of federal funds."