On Monday, January 27th, the Washtenaw Alliance for Education (WAE) will host a coffee with local legislative leaders to discuss what’s important for public education for this next legislative session.
While folks had prepared for a discussion on a handful of bills and new changes coming up, I argued for a focus on improving funding. Without more funding, schools will not be in a position to improve children’s success or enhance supports – all of which require more funding. Even expansion of GSRP seats does not fully cover the cost of the program – meaning more funding is needed from each school’s general operating budget to expand that program.
We are not doing our students a service if we dance around the core issue of significantly declining funds with many increased and unfunded mandates. The political context of having $1B in incremental revenue is equally important. If state legislators choose not to invest in education when we are emerging from a Recession, that is a competitive disadvantage for the the state of Michigan. We have lost population as we endured the Great Recession. If we want to attract businesses here, we need to invest in education to ensure a talented work force exists here AND that employees have a good place for their children to be educated. These are just a couple benefits to investing in education, but they are relevant to improving our economy.
There has been no significant increase in funding to public schools since Snyder has been in office. We are no longer in a Great Recession. We must invest significantly more in education if we want Michigan to be on a different path for its future in every measure that is important: economic growth, employment, home values, student achievement, a healthy population, a safe and fun place to live for every stage of life.
Our message to our local legislators on Monday will be to focus on adequately funding education as a core concern. The other bills before them (teacher evaluation, holding students in 3rd grade, pension reform 2.0, etc.) are distractions that aren’t going to vastly improve the classroom environment in the near term.
Tax cuts: If no one has drawn any parallels from George W. Bush’s tax cuts that he implemented in his first term to the current proposed tax cuts, why? What did we learn from that? Further, what does international data show about economic health and tax rates? The Economist, OECD and World Economic Forum study these things a lot. General findings are that the overall economy suffers when the tax base is too low. In Michigan, there are many proposals to continue to permanently reduce funds to the SAF and others, while we have many areas that require significant investments in order to catch up from long terms of under-investing (schools, our infrastructure in roads & bridges, healthcare).
Please contact your legislators and share your priorities with them. We are at the start of a new legislative session. Funds are available. They should continue to be available. How should they be invested for the best possible benefits to our state? Education has to be at the top of that list.