As far as I am concerned, Proposal A was a deal with the devil. We lose control of our own destiny, and we don't get the security that was promised. So here's the essence of my thoughts. When I said, "Raise my taxes," I had in mind a state-level solution, one that would likely include a progressive income tax, instead of a flat income tax, which is what we have now. It doesn't look like that is happening anytime soon, but understand this: the real action around school funding is happening at the state level. The local millage question is peanuts in comparison.
Further, the choice of a county millage is simply the product of a loophole at the state level. We can't have district operating millages (only ones that cover things like construction). And one thing that I really don't like about this kind of millage is that it seems unfair to some parts of the state. Sure, Kalamazoo and Monroe counties might have supported county education millages, but I don't think we'll be getting all 83 counties on board. Which means even more disparities. And the *only* thing that Proposal A got right was the goal of reducing disparities among school districts.
After reading comments about the millage question on arborupdate.com and annarbor.com, I get the feeling that a lot of people are upset that (here are some arguments that I have heard, along with my response):
- Teachers get paid too much. I don't believe they do--teachers are generally over-educated and hard-working. Sure, I want the burned out teachers to leave. But the millage vote will not affect their decisions. Why shouldn't a teacher make what an engineer makes? They have about the same amount of education.
- Teacher health insurance is too good. I might argue instead that other people's insurance is too crummy. But even if I were to agree, it's not something I can control. It's a very clumsy tool to think that voting "no" on a millage will mean that teachers have to pay more for health insurance.
- I'm suffering, you should suffer too. Well, of course, if you need to--if you are suffering--vote your pocketbook. But remember, it's not about the administrators suffering. It's about whether the kids need to suffer. So if you are not personally suffering, don't rely on this for your agrument. And since as the schools go, so go property values, it's likely that school cuts mean we will suffer even more. Schools are major economic engines, and employ thousands of people who live in our county.
- I don't like that the district built Skyline--or closed Kettering, or moved the sixth grade into the elementary schools. It's done. Let's move on.
- I don't like that the new Ypsilanti superintendent is getting paid so much. I agree, especially since the district is asking the teachers for concessions. But it's done. Next time, you run for Ypsi school board and make a different decision.
- I don't want money to go to Willow Run--it's not well-managed. I agree that it's not well-managed, but their huge deficit does not make it any easier for them. It makes it harder, and I'm hoping times will change and that the management will change.
- If I vote for a millage, I want it to be "value added." This seems like maintenance. It is. That is because of the state budget cuts. Call your state legislators and tell them to fund schools adequately.
- The schools should cut administration first. I agree. And I think the school boards shy away from that. So why is it that so few people actually ran for school board in the last go-round? You should run for school board! I mean it. I would like to see contested contests in every district in the county. And when you do win the election, remember--even if you cut administrative costs in half, the vast majority of school costs are related to instruction.
- The millage doesn't guarantee accountability. That's true, but that is not just true about the millage. We need to demand accountability, with or without the millage.
The choices we get are shaped by the choices we have. We can't have a single district millage because that is forbidden by Proposal A. Anyway, would that be for the best? The Washtenaw County area is a more-or-less integrated economic unit. In my neighborhood in Ann Arbor, I know there are teachers from Dexter, Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor and Willow Run school districts. Those are just the ones I know. So what happens to teachers in Dexter or Willow Run will affect my neighborhood.
It's all about the kids. And voting is not enough. Public schools need caring people to run for school board, join committees, advocate at the state level, and volunteer in the schools. So however you vote, take that next step too, and ENGAGE.
But, yes. I am voting yes. I will be putting up a yard sign in my yard. And I have the literature for making a donation to the vote yes campaign sitting in my "in" box. I invite you to join me.
P.S. I've been very fortunate that so far I haven't had to remove a single comment or stop anonymous commenting. That's because people have generally been respectful. Regarding taxes, passions run high. You don't have to agree with me, but please don't be snarky, mean, or rude. Thanks!