Governor Holds Round Table Discussions on Budget
Governor Granholm visited West Michigan last Friday to meet with superintendents, school board members and school staff looking for solutions to the education funding crisis.
The Governor met with members of the school communities in the Muskegon and Kent ISDs encouraging them to support her ideas for a short-term fix and long-term changes to how schools are funded. As she sees it, tax reform is key to avoiding any further budget dramas like we’re seeing now.
After the Governor explained the state’s financial crisis and her reasons for cutting an additional $127 from state aid, on top of the $165 already cut, she heard the impact the cuts will have on education—in addition to the budget slashing schools have already endured.
She heard of the potential elimination of 600 jobs in Kent County and 225 teaching jobs in Ottawa County. Kent City has already eliminated guidance counselors and day custodians. In Whitehall, this new round of cuts could mean cutting programs in fine arts and eliminating athletics and extra-curricular. The message was clear—schools are no longer cutting the number of programs—they’re cutting education quality.
John Mierz, a Whitehall teacher and MEA member, was invited to participate in the discussion. He told the Governor that it’s impossible for districts and staff to do any long-term planning when there’s such funding uncertainty.
Arch Lewis, MEA Research Consultant and a participant in the discussion agreed. “We need a long-term systemic. It’s obvious Prop A isn’t working. We need to get money to schools that will be a permanent revenue source.”
For the short term, the Legislature has 30 days to implement immediate solutions like freezing schedule increases in personal tax exemptions, or having special interest groups pay a percentage of their tax exemptions as a way of closing tax loopholes.
The Governor ended both discussions with the same challenge. “We have to mobilize like we’ve never mobilized before and fix this problem. Contact your legislator and tell them to vote for the needs of public education. Kids only have this moment. The Legislature must be convinced. Are you willing to help me?”
Emergency meetings deal with school funding crisis
In an emergency meeting on Monday, the State Board of Education urged the Governor and the Legislature to immediately find money to reduce the cuts in school funding. Meanwhile, the governor held another round-table discussion in Rochester.
Local MEA leaders and staff attended the meeting. They supplied stories about the cuts in their local districts and its effect on the classroom and students. Oakland County superintendents spoke of cost cutting measures they have been making over the past several years.
Sen. Mike Bishop (R) Rochester, Rep. Tom McMillin (R) Rochester Hills, and Rep. Kim Meltzer (R) Clinton Township were in attendance at the meeting.
At the urging of the Governor, contact your legislator today. Phone, email, or text legislators and tell them we must save public education. Urge them to look for revenue by reforming our antiquated tax structure and fixing our broken school funding system. For our economic survival, education must be a priority.
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A hearing is scheduled for Thursday, October 29, 2009, in Room 351 of the Capitol for 2 p.m. or after session, whichever is later.
Testifying on behalf the MEA will be Lori Spotts, President of the Tecumseh EA and Superintendent Mike Shibler, Rockford Public Schools.
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