Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Letter Received from Republican, Rep. Crawford

This letter was received by a WLEA member in reply to their request to Representative Hugh Crawford (Rep. - Wixom)to adequately fund education.

Since the start of the new legislature, many changes have been proposed, debated and voted on. This week, we will reach the goal Governor Snyder and the legislature has set: establishing our state budget before June 1st. With upwards of 20 budgets discussed, conference committees have been formed and are currently continuing the discussion pertaining to the proposed adjustments to budgeting for every state department. I must say that the education funding has been discussed the most. I have read all the e-mails received, listened to all messages and as a member of the House Education Committee, I have been privileged to hear testimony on all of these issues.

Our state can no longer support the operating expenses our local school districts are incurring, nor can our tax dollars support the uncontrollable healthcare and retirement expenses. This year the House of Representatives has proposed legislation that modifies and enhances the current system.

I have said from the beginning that I do not believe in transferring the School Aid Fund from K-12 to higher education. I have three 20J schools in my district and they have been hit the hardest in recent years with the cuts that have been made. With that being said, I do agree with the direction that Governor Snyder is proposing our state take. For too long, the taxpayers have been funding retirement and healthcare costs while programs are cut on a yearly basis, additional fees are placed on the students and their parents, and the "last-in" teachers are the first pink slipped. Many school districts have been forced into situations where at most, only 20% of their funding can be utilized in the classrooms because over 80% of their operating costs are salary and benefits for employees.

I voted no to HB 4325 that concerned the SAF transfer. However, the bill passed the House and the transfer of funds will be implemented in the new budget. The main issue now is coming to a compromise on the proposed budgets and allotting as much money that the House can reasonably ask of our state with several other state departments receiving cuts in the double digits including Higher Education's cut of roughly 15%. When the unanticipated tax return amount was confirmed on May 16th, over half of this money was placed into the K-12 fund. Governor Snyder is assigning a great deal of control to the local school districts in how they chose to fund their schools. The tax return money placed in K-12 funding has diminished the cut to a less than 2%, and less than a $100 per pupil cut with the stipulation that school districts must implement 4 of the 5 best practices outlined in the bill. These include having a 90/10 premium share for employee health benefits, providing that the district act as the policy holder for health insurance policies, having the district enter into consolidation plans, obtaining competitive bids on at least one non-instructional service, and making a public dashboard with financial indicators.

I support our children. I support providing our children with the highest level of education that can be provided. I support giving our children a promising future. Please know that I have taken your thoughts into consideration throughout this 6 month process and if no changes are made to the current proposed budget compromises with regard to education funding, I plan on voting yes.

Thank you for contacting me with your concerns.

Hugh D. Crawford