Sunday, May 15, 2011

Taxes and the School Aid Fund

Brian Dickerson's piece today in the Free Press, Don't Call It A Tax Cut, is awesome.

It starts with this:
The intramural haggling among Republican lawmakers is nearly over, and Gov. Rick Snyder will soon sign legislation that changes what state government does -- and who pays for it.
• Businesses will be relieved of much of their current state tax burden.
• Individual taxpayers will pick up a larger share of the bill for state services.
• Michigan will reduce spending on education at every level from pre-K to graduate school.
Many Republicans who supported these changes are describing them as an overall tax cut, on the grounds that, as a whole, taxpayers will pay less.
If you're buying that, please send me a check for $1,000. I'll use the money to make a down payment on a new car , you can keep your old one, and our transportation options -- as a whole -- will improve (although you might be a little short on gas money for a while).
Remember: We're in this together.
On this side of Alice's looking glass, most people recognize that what has happened is a massive tax shift -- one that takes much of the load off employers and redistributes it among those they employ -- or used to employ.
Peter Luke's article on how the legislature will have some 'splaining to do if they cut the School Aid Fund even though there is now more money in the till is quite good as well. 

Not every legislator has a university in his or her district, or a community college. But they all have a K-12 school district populated with currently angry parents of all political persuasions.
That fact is why the idea of cutting schools by hundreds of dollars per student, when there’s a sizable revenue surplus in the main state fund for education, should be causing such legislative angst.
In, Lucy Ann Lance interviews Liz Margolis of the Ann Arbor Public Schools, who explains why she believes that the School Aid Fund should not be used to pay for colleges.

Lucy Ann: What’s the idea behind calling it K-20 funding now?
Margolis: That is what the governor’s calling it. He’s caging the education budget as a PreK-20, and that’s one of our issues. He’s taking some of the money that he calls surplus; but I’ll tell you, Lucy Ann, that it’s really not surplus. It’s money that they pro-rated and took from the public school districts from the past two years in the middle of the school year. They’re calling it a surplus but the governor is proposing that that money goes to universities, and that is very troubling to us because universities raise money and, obviously, can raise tuition. Public schools have no way to gain that revenue. So we’re really unhappy about the move to take that money out of the PreK-12 budget and move it to the universities and sort of cage this as a PreK through the end of college, because it’s apples to oranges.
All of which is reason that we should KEEP the PRESSURE on our legislature to restore funding to K-12 schools. 

Yes, it matters. Less funding translates into bigger classes and fewer teachers. For example, in Detroit, tomorrow teachers find out what exactly Robert Bobb is proposing in terms of the teacher's contract. (Remember, the entire teaching staff got pink slipped recently and Bobb said he was going to unilaterally modify their union contract.)

So, keep the pressure on. Michigan Parents for Schools is putting out action updates, and you can send information to your legislators--where ever you live in this state--at their legislative action center page.

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