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.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

House roads bill would cost OPS amost $1.9 million per year

One of the issues with the most traction in this year's lame duck session of the Michigan legislature is funding road repair.  That repair could come at a high price to schools.

As we have previously reported, the House plan to fund road repair would shift the way gas is taxed in Michigan so that tax revenue would go into the general fund instead of the School Aid Fund.  Okemos Parents for Schools, December 5, 2014.  In short, the House plans is to pay for roads by cutting schools. 

MLive has compiled a database which projects how much the House plan would cost each school per year.  The price tag for Okemos? $1,898,575.00 per year.  Check the MLive date base here: MLive, December 10, 2014.

Here are some price tags for neighboring communities as calculated by MLive:
  • Haslett - $1,298,175.00 per year
  • East Lansing - $1,645,875.00 per year
  • Lansing - $ 5,669,600.00 per year
  • Holt - $ 2,747,400.00 per year
  • Grand Ledge $ 2,400,650.00 per year
  • Williamston $854,525.00 per year
  • Mason $1,471,075.00 per year

Friday, December 5, 2014

Lame duck: funding roads by cutting schools

Two years ago a slew of radical education bills reared their heads in the lame duck legislative session--and it's happening again.

The election is over and there are many Michigan Representatives and Senators who won't be back on January 1st either because they are term limited or because they lost their election. Nonetheless, they still hold office until then and now is a time when they can push forward with unpopular measures without fear of reprisal from voters. There are several bad ideas making their way through the Legislature, one is to fund road repair by taking the money from public schools.

Fixing the roads has been a big focus in Lansing for more than a year. But, while all lawmakers say they are for improving roads, they disagree on how to pay for it. There are competing proposals in the Legislature right now. The measure which has passed the Senate would raise money by raising the gas tax:
The plan would convert the state's 19-cent per gallon gas tax to a wholesale version and gradually increase rates over four years. At the current wholesale price, gas taxes could top 40 cents by 2018. [, November 13, 2014.]
This plan is backed by Governor Snyder, and passed with Democratic as well as Republican votes in the Senate.  Okemos Parents for Schools takes no position on this measure as it has nothing to do with schools. The version passed by the House is another matter.

The version which recently passed in the House would not actually generate any additional revenue for the state, but would shift money which would otherwise go to schools and municipalities to roads:
The proposal put forth by Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, would phase out sales tax collections on fuel purchases between 2016 and 2021 but increase fuel taxes by a corresponding amount.
Fuel taxes are one of the state’s primary funding sources for roads. Most sales tax revenue, meanwhile, is constitutionally earmarked for the School Aid Fund and municipal revenue sharing programs.
"Simply put, this plan dedicates the taxes drivers pay at the pump to fixing their roads," Bolger, R-Marshall, said in a statement. 
There’s another complicating factor, however: Any new money generated for roads under the plan is not really new money. It’s funding that would have otherwise been directed toward schools and cities.
“If we take more money from our schools and our cities to solve the road funding problem, we haven’t really done anything,” said Rep. Doug Geiss, D-Taylor. “We’ve played a shell game.” [, December 5, 2014.]
This same idea was floated last year, and we told you about it then, Okemos Parents for Schools, May 3, 2013, and estimated it could result in cuts to schools in the neighborhood of $500 per student.  Michigan Parents for Schools is once again estimating the cost to schools could be in the neighborhood of $500 per student.  Michigan Parents for Schools, December 4, 2014.

Okemos Parents for Schools strongly opposes this measure.  While fixing roads is certainly a worthy pursuit, there is no need to do it by cutting funding to schools.  If you would like to contact your elected officials you can easily do so with a helpful tool generated by Michigan Parents for Schools:

Click here to contact lawmakers.  Fund roads by cutting schools is Bad Idea #1.