Friday, May 3, 2013

Changing the Gas Tax Will Cost K-12 $500 Per Pupil

Structural Funding - Changing the Gas Tax
School funding has been caught up in Gov. Snyder's road proposal, and the House is considering measures which would take $750 million dollars per year out of the school aid fund.  That comes out to about $500 per pupil which would be taken from public schools. This is an extremely significant number.

HB 4539 and HB 4572 would exempt gasoline from sales tax, but make it subject to a wholesale tax. At first, this seems like a zero-sum game - removing one tax but adding another.  However, the wholesale tax would go entirely to pay for road repair/improvement, while a large part of the sales tax goes to fund K-12 education.  By switching the type of tax levied on gas at the pump, these bills would effect another massive cut to K-12 funding.

This would do long-term damage to K-12 funding.  As we have said before, we take great care about asking you to take action.  Although this is a clear danger to our schools, we aren't calling for an Okemos Parents for Schools direct response.  However, Michigan Parents for Schools has called for action, and they have an easy to use tool which will submit an email on you behalf.  If you have the time, we recommend contacting lawmakers.
Future of Education on HOMTV
HOMTV's "Open Line" tackled the future of Michigan education Thursday.  The panel included State Representative Sam Singh (D), Okemos parent Brett DeGroff, The Center for Michigan's Amber Toth, and Ingham County Register of Deeds Curtis Hertel Jr. (D) (also an announced candidate for state senate in 2014).

The lively conversation tackled many aspects of the current legislative debate with an emphasis on funding.  Rep. Singh discussed how the charter school movement has diverged from charters being extensions of public education.  Brett DeGroff discussed how the "Public Vision" of education, and the "Voucher Vision" of education are vying to define Michigan Schools.  Amber Toth discussed many aspects of the Center for Michigan's recent statewide survey.  Register of Deeds Hertel discussed how the current legislative debate is prioritizing corporate profits over people.
Michigan State Board of Education Future of Education Forum
We would like to remind you once more that the Okemos Parent Council Legislative Committee and the Michigan Sandbox Party are happy to welcome members of the State Board of Education to the mid-Michigan area for a community forum on education issues at the local and state level. The members of this panel are among the most knowledgeable in the state on these issues.  This is an outstanding opportunity to learn more about these issues, and connect with others who are concerned.

Date: Thursday, May 16th
Time: 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm
Location: Chippewa Middle School, 4000 N. Okemos Rd., Okemos, 48864
  • John Austin, President Michigan State Board of Education (confirmed)
  • Lupe Ramos-Montigny, State Board of Education (confirmed)
  • Steve Norton, Executive Director of Michigan Parents for Schools (confirmed)
  • Dr. Vickie Markavitch, Superintendent Oakland ISD (confirmed)
  • Stanley Kogut, Superintendent Ingham ISD (confirmed)
We need volunteers the evening of the forum to help direct people to seats and at the information table where we will have some handouts for those who would like more information on education topics. Having people there to help find seats will be more welcoming to our guests and will help ensure the forum runs smoothly by helping people find seats faster as the auditorium fills.
Please contact us at if you would like to volunteer or if you have any questions.

We Know How to Fix Michigan's Troubled Schools, Make Them Like Michigan's High Performing Schools
Discussions about education in American and education in Michigan often start with the premise that our education system generally is broken.  This premise is wrong.

Most often, the evidence cited to support this premise is the United States' ranking compared to other countries.  As discussed in a recent Washington Post story, you can cut those numbers a lot of different ways.  There are numbers you can cherry pick which make the United States look bad, just are there are numbers you can pick which make the United States look good.  But, it turns out, looking at education in the United States generally isn't meaningful because it doesn't account for the vast disparity by socioeconomic status:
Rich American kids do fine; poor American kids don’t.  It’s ridiculous to offer a summary statistic for all children at a given grade level in light of the enormous variation in scores within this country.  To do so is roughly analogous to proposing an average pollution statistic for the United States that tells us the cleanliness of “American air.”  Test scores are largely a function of socioeconomic status.  Our wealthier students perform very well when compared to other countries; our poorer students do not.  And we have a lot more poor children than do other industrialized nations.  One example, supplied by Linda Darling-Hammond:  “In 2009 U.S. schools with fewer than 10 percent of students in poverty ranked first among all nations on PISA tests in reading, while those serving more than 75 percent of students in poverty scored alongside nations like Serbia, ranking about fiftieth.” “We’re Number Umpteenth!”: The myth of lagging U.S. schools, Washington Post, May 3, 2013.
There are two big takeaways from this.  First, most Michigan schools don't need "reform," or added "choice," or "unbundling." They are already doing a great job.  Second, the problem with Michigan schools which are struggling isn't with the schools, it's with the poverty of the children the school serves. So even in these schools, the answer isn't radical reforms.  The answer is to address the underlying poverty and help make the struggling schools more like our excellent schools. 

Of course, addressing the underlying poverty, whatever that means, isn't an easy thing to do.  But making tweaks in the classroom and replacing teachers with computers isn't the answer either.  And the more time and resources we spend on foolishness like "unbundling," the less time and resources we have to do the really hard work that needs to be done to help these schools and the communities they serve.

At the heart of science is an essential balance between two seemingly contradictory attitudes--an openness to new ideas, no matter how bizarre or counterintuitive they may be, and the most ruthless skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, old and new. This is how deep truths are winnowed from deep nonsense. - Carl Sagan

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