Thursday, July 25, 2013

Detroit daily papers take aim at disinvestment in K-12

A recent editorial from the Detroit Free Press and Op-Ed in the Detroit News continue to make the points that Michigan's elected leadership is not adequately funding K-12 education, and any claim to having increased funding to K-12 education is disingenuous at best.

The Detroit Free Press discussed the impending dissolution of the Saginaw Buena Vista and Inkster school districts:
But this is no way to run a railroad — and it’s an embarrassing, slapdash way to manage a huge fiscal crisis in education.
What on earth has Michigan sunk to? Slashing public education to the extent we have, allowing districts to stumble into huge financial holes, then simply dissolving them as a “solution” to the problem. This is the kind of abdication and neglect we used to ridicule in other states; now, we’re the butt of the jokes.
Think about the chaos the dissolution of Buena Vista and Inkster will wreak in the coming weeks. Students and parents will not just lose a school district; they’ll see their schools closed, something that wouldn’t necessarily happen under a plan to consolidate school districts in an orderly way.
And how will kids in those communities get to the new districts that are expected to take them? The logistics alone are nightmarish to contemplate.
The law that allows for “emergency” district closures is simply management by crisis, a half-baked approach to a problem that requires a fully cooked set of ideas.
For Gov. Rick Snyder, this goes part and parcel with his approach to failing cities. Rather than engage in a big-picture re-think about how the state funds and maintains local government (or, perhaps, how much local government we are willing to pay for anymore) he is content to manage from one barn-burner to the next, extinguishing the flames, but never dealing with the accelerant that’s fueling the fires.
That’s not going to work long term. Buena Vista and Inkster’s school districts may be gone, but the residue of the problem they represent persists, and will spread to other districts in time.
If Snyder continues to manage through incremental crisis-related steps, the Michigan recovery he imagines won’t materialize for anyone. [Editorial: Closing Buena Vista, Inkster school districts is no surprise - and no solution, The Detroit Free Press, July 23, 2013.]
 An Op-Ed in the Detroit News directly addressed the drastic cuts to K-12 funding which as created crises such as Saginaw Buena Vista and Inkster:
Shortly after taking office, one of Snyder’s bold initiatives to “reinvent Michigan” was to cut over $1 billion from the education budget. That $1 billion cut in school funding helped pay for his other big idea: a $1.8 billion tax cut for corporate special interests. Cut the “fat” out of the budget for our schools and cut corporate taxes to spur economic growth and create jobs.
As a result of the education funding cuts, approximately one in five districts across the state is facing serious financial hardships, resulting in increased class sizes, elimination of programs and teacher layoffs. And those are the lucky ones. In just the last school year alone, we saw one district close for two weeks, several that faced payless paydays, one that simply could not pay the health care premiums for their employees and another that announced they would not open their high school next year.
The $1 billion cut in education funding Snyder pushed through in his first year in office has certainly yield results — but all of them bad.
That reduction in education funding equated to an average of $470 per pupil or $2.61 per pupil per day. In an attempt to reinvent his record on education funding, the governor’s campaign now touts the thirty-five cents-per-pupil, per-day increase in the 2012-13 education budget and the thirty-three cents-per-pupil increase in the 2013-14 budget. At that rate, it will be 2021 before education funding will return to the level it was when he took office.
A few small increases in education funding do not begin to fill the hole he created in the first place. And it will certainly not stem the tide of financial crises gripping more and more school districts across the state.
However, it will allow Snyder’s campaign to run ads saying he has “increased” education funding.
The governor’s plan to reinvent Michigan through education funding cuts and corporate tax cuts has resulted in six tenths of one percent reduction in unemployment and financial disaster for school districts across the state.
The voters may not see that as a fair trade. [Gov. Snyder's fuzzy math on school funding, The Detroit News, July 24, 2013.]

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