I am deeply troubled by the education budgets coming out of Lansing. Even though thousands of voters were clear in their message to Lansing on several extreme legislative efforts in the November election and during December’s lame duck session, a force in Lansing is intent on bringing those same issues forward AGAIN! We can find them in the education budgets introduced by the Governor and the amended versions the House and Senate are considering.
Overall, when we do the “adds” and “subtracts” in the three budgets, none of them increase funding for K-12 students. None of them replace the money lost to K-12 schools over recent years. All three claim they increase funding to schools, and each of them do in one line item or another; but they take it away in other places. When we do ALL the math, it is a negative number not a positive one.
Once again money is taken away from our schools by partisan agendas and a voucher mentality as the governor and legislators ignore the voice of Michigan citizens.
The first example of this: public funds intended for K-12 students are again being diverted to colleges, to the tune of $400M. There was public outrage the last time this was done and we expect outrage again. The question is – does voter opinion really count in Lansing?
Then there is what appears to be an $8M bailout for the EAA (Section 22k) – the statewide system the governor put in place to run 15 schools in Detroit. The EAA bill is still alive in this legislative session, but it seems the EAA is having problems paying its bills – this despite millions in additional funds given to them for start-up and millions more from private sources. We know high poverty, at-risk students need more funding; Lansing should increase funds so all at-risk students in the state can have more resources. Instead, Lansing finds ways to divert millions of dollars to the EAA while at-risk funding for everyone else has been cut 55%.
Even more troubling, a close study of the budget revealed a section (98) with a $100 placeholder for an “intensive technology academy.” This looks like what HB 5923 was proposing as “new special forms of schools” during lame duck, and some of what the Oxford Group was proposing for funding schools. Not much is known about this proposed academy, but its name alone would suggest it is to be a school designed to attract a specific type of student through self-selection. HB 5923 tried to legislate a way for charter schools to select students and this seems very close to the same thing. Voters didn’t like it then and I believe they won’t like it any better now.
Finally, we see that the governor brought forward pieces of the Oxford proposal to his budget – specifically section (21f) to “unbundle” school funding. This section brings us vouchers under the guise of choice – it seems to simply give parents an opportunity to “buy” online courses for their students. Well, if providing online options is truly the intent, then the governor and legislators will be glad to know that those opportunities are already available to students – and with no extra cost for the state budget. Michigan school districts already provide online options and thousands of Michigan students are taking thousands of online courses. So, if this is already available, why do we need language to unbundle funds? Who benefits and who profits?
As Michigan adopts a state budget for its K-12 students, there should be no diversion of money to colleges, no vouchers for vendors through unbundling of public funding, no special school run by the governor that cherry picks students through a design for self-selection; and let’s be fair about funding for all at-risk kids, not just those attending the EAA schools. It is time for a real increase for our public schools and their students.
Let your legislators and the Governor know loud and clear: This is not the education budget Michigan voters want for Michigan students.
READ “Games Legislators Play“
posted by Jean MacLeod, Communications/Oakland Schools
Oakland Schools • 2111 Pontiac Lake Road • Waterford, MI 48328-2736 • 248.209.2000