Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Looking for Best Practice Models: Michigan Parks Planning

It shouldn't surprise anyone that our state parks are facing many of the same challenges as our state schools--limited funding, concerns about infrastructure--at the same time that they are, in fact, some of our greatest assets (as are our kids). After all, If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.

Ron Olson, the person currently in charge of Michigan state parks (whom I mention by name because he was formerly in charge of Ann Arbor's parks), Michigan state parks staff, and the Citizen's Committee for State Parks, together decided to examine funding models from other states and identify the best models. They did. They actually found a model that a) appears to be more stable, b) would keep funding separate from the general fund, c) was voluntary, and d) had bipartisan support. 

You would think that would make it a slam dunk, but no. It got tangled up in the idea that the state needs a comprehensive budget solution. Instead, the state parks, and all of us who live in the state, are left Waiting for Godot.

In any case: kudos to the state parks staff and volunteers who did the legwork. When people ask me, what should we tell the state government we want done around funding schools, my partial answer is: let's do exactly what the state parks people did. Let's start by looking at funding models and education outcomes in other states. Let's find the best practices. I think, but I'm not sure, that they will be found in the mid-Atlantic or northeast states (that is where the best outcomes can be found). And I could be surprised. Guess where the parks model came from?


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