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Local Democrats Slam House Republican Education Funding Bill

Gretchen Driskell, candidate for Michigan's 52nd House District, says the state should restore nearly $1 billion cut last year from K-12 funding.

Education reform was on the mind of Saline Mayor Gretchen Driskell on Monday. Driskell, a Democratic , held a press conference at the urging Gov. Snyder to restore nearly $1 billion in school aid funding to local schools.

"The priorities of Lansing Republicans are out of step with our families in Michigan," Driskell, a mother of three, said. "We need the politicians in Lansing to listen to the people and recognize that a higher-quality education system is essential to our children's future and our state's economic recovery."

The Legislature has set a target date of June 1 to send a budget to Gov. Snyder, and Driskell said both the House and Senate versions strip money from the state's School Aid Fund. According to Driskell, if money were not diverted from the fund during the 2011-2012 school year, per pupil funding would have increased by $650.

"At a time when we need to be putting more resources into our classrooms, Lansing Republicans are taking resources away from our kids," she said. "The past year we've seen school district after school district close schools, lay off teachers and squeeze more students into each classroom.

"I'm very concerned about the lack of investment in our schools."

Democrats across Southeast Michigan echoed Driskell's concerns during a press conference in Southgate on Monday morning.

State Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton, D-Huntington Woods, who is minority vice chairwoman with appropriations subcommittees on school aid and community colleges, said Republicans voted against multiple amendments that Democrats offered to restore school funding. 

"I think that it's an understatement to say that ... parents all across the state are really in a state of outrage over what has happened over the past two years," she said.

The Republican-proposed budget puts Michigan's education funding below 2006 levels, State Rep. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, said. Even though financial incentives are proposed for districts that meet certain "best practices" bench marks, those dollars also come out of state funding that is meant for all K-12 schools, she added. 

According to Cogen Lipton, Republican lawmakers have said they created the list of best practices themselves, and Brown pointed out the benchmarks have more to do with budget and school management.

"You really don't see students in the list of best practices," she said. 

State Rep. Rudy Hobbs, D-Lathrup Village, pointed to the fightschoolcuts.com website as a place where citizens can go to get information about school funding and how to get involved. The interactive website offers a search feature that shows how much funding individual school districts stand to lose, based on House Fiscal Agency estimates, under the proposed Republican budget. According to the website, Dexter Community Schools could lose up to $1 million in funding, and Saline Area Schools will lose $1.4 million.

Dexter parent Jim Carty said the ongoing cuts to local school districts is unacceptable.

"It's very clear that (Gov. Snyder's) administration, as well as the Republican House and Senate, have very strong priorities, but education is not among those priorities," Carty said. "I've watched during the last three or four years the conversations involving Dexter Schools' budget cuts — cutting programs, cutting teachers, cutting extracurricular activities — and now, as the economy has started to come back and we have some more revenue, I hear conversation at the state level of cutting business taxes, but not restoring money to schools. That speaks very loudly to priorities that are not about education.

"As a parent, I think it's very obvious that the schools have paid a high price for Michigan's recession."

Lawmakers said the omnibus education budget is currently in conference committee, so citizens still have time to contact their lawmakers about it. 

SalineDad2 May 09, 2012 at 02:13 AM
"Five years without a raise, does not pass the smell test if you are a union public educator" Scoobydoo, Cunning_teacher described "twelve years of teaching." That would put him/her well beyond step raises in most Michigan educator contracts. Your contempt for public employees is mystifying. Public school teachers have educated pretty much everyone in your community: doctors, lawyers, nurses, clergy ...pretty much all went to public schools at some point in your "50 plus years." And it is a sure bet that most of the people you admire in the U.S. today--athletes, politicians, entertainers, etc.-- were taught by public school teachers at some point (many of them union!!). Firefighters and police officers, too, have stood by for the last 50 years ready to protect your person and property (at great potential risk to themselves)--and I think it is great that you have not needed their assistance, but many of your neighbors no doubt have.
Cunning_teacher May 09, 2012 at 02:22 AM
Scoobydoo, Just as I would address one of my students here in my rural Michigan classroom, I say to you, "you raise some interesting questions. Now let's take some time and study in Oder to better understand the problem that is presented here." I suggest again, that you step into the shoes of a teacher. That is my first assignment that you must complete before you can begin to understand. Secondly, walk into any college bookstore and pick up one of the first college textbooks I purchased called Becoming a Teacher. You will find the study that I referenced there. Lastly, your assertion that I am a liar with my claim to a five year pay freeze is cruel. Again, open your mind and study. Mine and every Michigan public teacher contract is public information. You are a bully for saying things that stereotype and demean. Either go to your seat and do your assignment or leave my classroom and report to the responsible thinking room.
john Waterman May 09, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Who is going to fight to restore funding to our public schools? I am not talking about bloated budgets or "unlimited funding". Schools have trimmed the fat, leaned out the system and know we want to cut to the bone. There are a couple of individuals who would end public education and there are others that do not want to make sacrifices for our children, but let’s be realistic the current administration has cut funding to schools in favor of a tax cuts for business. That is why schools even successful schools like Saline are facing a financial crisis. We have great schools and I will be supporting the Candidate that has the courage to fight for our schools. Let’s not sacrifice our children’s education for corporate profits.
john Waterman May 09, 2012 at 12:54 PM
Restoring funding taken from our schools is not dumping money into education. I am proud of the return Saline Schools has provided with my tax dollars. The middle class has been squeezed by the great Recession and both government and corporations played a role in that crash. Now the corporations are making profits, do we have to sacrifice our children's education to make the profits even greater?
SCOOBYDOO May 10, 2012 at 11:21 PM
@cunning_teacher, I am too old to change careers but I could easily teach business classes consisting of finance,policy,stategy, etc. But guess what, I cannot without an "education" certificate. Whoop dee doo ! You actually are giving me an assignment so that I can become "enlightened" and "understand". My wife is in college right now and we don't buy her books in a "bookstore", they are too expensive, we buy them at half.com where we have a choice but we have almost no choice in public education in the K-12 level. ! Hum, reminds me of something else that is too expensive. I am a bully you say ? I believe quite the opposite is true. I need a new roof on my house and I need a new paint job but I cannot afford it because my taxes are ridiculous. A best friend in Indiana has a house twice as nice as mine and his property taxes are half the cost of mine. And don't blame big business for that because corporate taxes are lower in Indiana than in Michigan. I have a little one that will be going to school in two years, I look forward to taking my tax dollars and shopping for what school will best fit his needs. Could well be a charter school very close to home. And lastly, you tell me to go to my seat and do "your assignment" or leave the classroom, puleeaasse ! Say what you want , things are going to move in the right direction, you won't like it but the taxpayers will.

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