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Ann Arbor Public Schools approves $20.4 million in cuts over parent protests

A group of people marched in front of Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor Monday, ahead of a board meeting about budget cuts. (Bridge photo by Isabel Lohman)
  • Ann Arbor Public Schools approves $20.4 million in cuts
  • Many parents and teachers spoke in opposition of cutting world language elementary programs and music education staffing 
  • The board voted 6-1 to approve the plan 

ANN ARBOR — Ann Arbor Public Schools’ board on late Monday approved deep cuts in staffing, language classes and other programs to close a $20.4 million projected deficit.

Over objections from parents and some teachers, school board members voted 6-1 to approve a  a series of cuts outlined last week by interim Superintendent Jazz Parks. 

The deficit was caused by a drop in enrollment, increased staffing and pay raises.

Layoff notices for 141 staffers will begin this week. The cuts and their expected savings include: 

  • $14.7 million: Reducing total staff by 6% including teachers, paraprofessionals, support staff and others.
  • $1.2 million: Shifting a science, technology, engineering, arts and math elementary program into the specials schedule 
  • $400,000: Eliminating world language programs in elementary schools that do not have an International Baccalaureate program
  • $224,000:  Reducing co-teachers in middle and high school band and orchestra programs 
  • $525,000 annually: Reducing substitute costs and two coordinator positions in two elementary International Baccalaureate programs
  • $150,000: Eliminating a virtual elementary school that has eight students
  • $520,000 a year plus repair costs: closing middle school pools except for a city-run pool inside a middle school

The district also reached an agreement with the teachers union for voluntary buyouts that would pay teachers with 10 or more years of experience in the district with up to $25,000 to resign.


So far, 23 have turned in letters of resignation or retirement, district spokesperson Andrew Cluley told Bridge Michigan.

Before Monday night’s meeting, roughly 75 people marched in a circle chanting “More cuts to the top” and “Arts over admin” in front of Pioneer High School. 

Many wore blue shirts that say “Support Ann Arbor teachers.”

Over 200 people signed up to address the board,  including Rebecca Hogan, a parent of one Ann Arbor student.

“We want the central office to take a greater share of this burden,” Hogan said. “Listen to parents, we're asking you to minimize impact to students: cut more from the top, restore our trust.” 

Speakers spoke of the importance of librarians, elementary world language programs and music instructors. 

Currently, Spanish language instruction is taught twice a week for 30 minutes each in fourth and fifth grades, according to Parks. 

She said the district has been unable to fill vacancies related to these courses. When asked if there’s a commitment to bring the program back if finances improve, Parks said that she is committed to conversations about doing so in a “stable” way that includes an “immersive experience” for students.

Speakers also worried that changes to the elementary specials schedules would require teachers to travel to multiple schools to be full-time. 

“Eliminating these problems, you are sending a message that you don't care about diversity,” said Yuan Li, a middle and high school Mandarin language teacher. “You don't value different cultures and you're promoting exclusion. You're taking away students' opportunities to become global citizens and you're driving families to seek other choices to benefit their kids.”

The district also plans to reduce co-teachers in band and orchestra programs in the middle school and high schools where the district says class sizes are below the maximum limit.

Margaret Baker, a parent volunteer for 21 years, called the music education changes “misguided, ill-advised, confounding and just wrong. They will be hugely detrimental to a large group of students for years to come, particularly students who most need music in school.

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