Monday, May 23, 2011

Last Chance to Influence School Funding for This Year!

In the last couple of days I have gotten two alerts from Michigan Parents for Schools ( I'm publishing the most recent alert--which I got early this morning--because I think they explain things really well. Now go try and get those decision-makers to change their mind and restore the surplus funds to per-pupil funding.

The most interesting (read: depressing) thing that I learned from these alerts is that the only reason that Gov. Snyder can refer to these monies as "one-time" funds is because of the business tax breaks that he decided to give. It doesn't have to be that way...

At the bottom--where it says "Act Today," you can click on the link to send a letter to your legislators. Please do!

Our last chance to be heard before the school aid budget is finished
We must all speak out before the state school aid budget becomes final.

Dear friends,

The new "budget deal" hammered out in Lansing is a tiny bit of good news for our public schools, but we are unimpressed. The deal still includes major cuts for K-12 education and fails to fix any of the long term structural issues that have been slowly strangling our children's schools.

The budget deal is likely to move very quickly once the details are worked out. Act NOW to  make sure your voice is heard!

As many of you surely know, last week the Governor and majority leaders of the Legislature announced a budget agreement that reduced cuts to public schools. They were able to do this because of the projected $430 million increase in State revenues for the current year. These are considered "one-time" funds, however, because a potential surplus for next year will be eaten up by the business tax cut recently passed by the Legislature.

As a result, our political leaders do not want to spend the extra money on "programming."
  • Of the added $300 per pupil cut to K-12 schools requested by the Governor, $100 per pupil will still be cut. (That's in addition to the $170 per pupil cut that would have taken effect this year were it not for Federal assistance.)
  • The other $200 per pupil will not be added to districts' foundation allowances. Instead, an amount equivalent to $100 per pupil will be used to reduce districts' required payments to the state teacher pension system (MPSERS). The final $100 per pupil will be distributed to districts that engage in certain financial "best practices."
We haven't seen the actual legislation yet, and some details are very vague. No one yet knows precisely what "best practices" will be rewarded, or how they are to be measured. What is certain is that this is all about money, and not the quality of instruction in our schools. Likewise, if the MPSERS contributions are somehow allocated on a per-pupil basis, it will disadvantage districts with relatively higher payrolls - usually because they have a higher proportion of experienced teachers.

I suppose we are meant to be relieved that the cut is much smaller than anticipated. On the other hand, the original surplus in the school aid fund would have made any cuts unnecessary had it not been for the Governor's dramatic business tax cuts.

So why aren't we cheering? Let me count the ways:
  • The "compromise" still includes a $270 per pupil cut to public schools that would not be necessary if the tax cut for business had been more moderate and funds for colleges and universities weren't being siphoned from the School Aid Fund.
  • The school aid shortfall will be larger the year after next, the first full year of the Snyder business tax cuts. We're supposed to rely on promises of larger transfers from the General Fund budget, but that's a promise we've seen broken before.
  • The budget does nothing to provide a stable and adequate revenue stream for public education.
  • The proposals on the table do the very opposite of investing in our children and our communities - something we need to do now more than ever.
Join us in letting our lawmakers know that this budget deal is still poor policy and it does not reflect the values of Michigan residents.

Act TODAY to make sure your voice is heard before the final bills are rushed through to passage. Tell your representatives how you want your schools to be treated!
Steven Norton
Executive Director

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this, Ruth! We're trying to alert parents and citizens as widely as we can.

    However, the "compromise" school aid budget was reported from conference committee yesterday and has already passed the Senate. The House is scheduled to vote on it today, and everyone is confident they have the votes to pass it. (I put "compromise" in quotes because the "compromise" was worked out among the Governor and the leaders of the House and Senate - all Republicans. Opponents of the budget, mostly Democrats, were frozen out of the process.)

    Readers can find our summaries of the original bills and the outcome of the conference committees here:

    It looks like the next issues will be pension reform, the efforts to eliminate tenure, and public employee health care benefits. Unfortunately, none of the proposals in this area put much priority on the true quality of instruction, investing in human capital, or making teaching in Michigan schools a plausible profession for new graduates. All stick, no carrot.