Monday, December 22, 2014

Lame Duck wrap up

All in all, the lame duck session couldn't have been expected to go much better for K-12 education.  Road funding, which was threatening to suck catastrophic amounts of money from K-12 education ended up with a compromise which may result in significant additional funding.  Also, a slew of harmful measures did not pass.

The biggest issue in the lame duck was how funding for roads might effect K-12 education.  A plan that passed the house would have moved funding from K-12 to road funding.  Okemos Parents for Schools, December 5, 2014. By the accounting of, the move would have cost Okemos Public Schools almost $1.9 million per year.  Okemos Parents for Schools, December 10, 2014

The politics of the situation put Republicans in control of the Michigan House of Representatives, the Michigan Senate, as well as the Governor's office.  The far right of the Republican party was unwilling to accept any additional taxes to pay for roads, and moderate Republicans were unwilling to take all the road funding money from schools and municipalities.  This meant the legislative minority, Democrats, were needed to pass any road funding bill.  The compromise that emerged centers around a May election where voters will be asked to approve a one percent increase in the sales tax.  If it passes, the entire compromise will be enacted:
In addition to increasing the sales tax from 6% to 7%, the plan would remove the sales tax from motor fuel and effectively raise the overall tax on gas by 3 cents. . . .  Snyder and legislative leaders say the deal will not only improve road funding but increase funding for Michigan schools by $300 million--an amount Snyder says will work out to about $200 per student--and create an additional $100 million in funding for public transportation. The plan will also reportedly ensure school aid fund revenue goes to K-12 districts or community colleges and not universities. [ClickOnDetroit, December 18, 2014.]
Democrats also insisted on restoring the Earned Income Tax Credit for working poor people to the level it was at before cutting by the Snyder administration.  All in all, an issue which presented a significant risk to K-12 education was turned into a positive situation.  Okemos Parents for Schools supports this measure and will ask voters to approve the measure in May.  Another little reported aspect of the compromise is that it authorized a study to determine the cost of educating a child in Michigan:
Finally, the compromise included one more surprise: a repurposed bill which will authorize a study to determine the true cost of educating a child in Michigan. This is a measure which Michigan parents have advocated for years, and was proposed by a bill introduced earlier this year. So far, our state has been talking about school funding in a vacuum, and this study would give us a chance to systematically measure what different school services cost. That would help us hammer out a sensible system for funding K-12 education that was geared at giving schools the resources they need. [Michigan Parents for Schools, December 22, 2014.]
A slew of other measures which threatened schools did not come to a vote in the lame duck session. "these measures will have to be reintroduced in the next session to move forward. Teacher and administrator evaluation, A-F school rating, 3rd grade flunking, EAA expansion, and the deficit "early warning" package all failed to become law."   Michigan Parents for Schools, December 22, 2014.

These are significant victories which would not have happened if not for the efforts of those of you who wrote and called legislators.

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