Thursday, May 5, 2011

Responses from Legislators on Thursday, May 5, 2011

Posted at 4:00 PM Thursday night:

A HUGE thank you to everyone who is writing their legislators!!! Thank you to all of you who are sharing responses you are receiving!

I believe your letters ARE making a difference! I am including a few responses that people have forwarded to me this afternoon. I think Rep. Crawford in Novi has been a busy guy today! He has a few misconceptions, but you have all made a dent in his beliefs about school funding!

2:09 PM, 5/5/11 - From Rep. Crawford:
Dear Ms. ---
At this time, with new legislation introduced, specifically HB4325, with regard to the transfer of SAF to Community Colleges. I plan on voting no.
Hugh D. Crawford, State Representative, 38th District

A second email from Rep. Crawford - 2:09:18 pm, 5/5/11

Dear Mr. ,
Thank you for contracting my office with your concern about the future funding of Michigan's education system.

In the recent months, there has been much speculation pertaining to Governor Snyder's proposed education budget. Many have heard of cuts well over $1,000 per pupil, the end of collective bargaining and attacks on teachers. On April 27th, the Governor presented his education speech in Detroit, I now feel confident in responding to your concerns after listening to his points and gaining a better understanding of his future goals within the education system.

For the past 15 years, $4.4 billion in General Fund revenue has been transferred to the School Aid Fund which increased the per pupil allowance. While these increases were occurring, school enrollment was decreasing, which is a clear indication that the support for K-12 exists within our legislature.

Some allege that the cuts to education will be between $800- $1000 per pupil over the next year. This statement is not accurate. The actual cut will amount to $300 per pupil. An additional $170 cut in per pupil funding from federal stimulus funds was allocated to this year's budget at the request of superintendents, school boards, and bargaining units across the state. This one-time money is, therefore, unavailable for the next year. Any remaining amount that some consider a cut is the amount each school district must pay to compensate for the currently underfunded health and retirement plan benefits that have been incurred by school boards for the benefit of school employees.

The 3 largest contributors to the SAF are the state sales tax, the state income tax, and the state education property tax. All of these are directly related to, and affected by, the strength of our economy. If we can create an environment where businesses can thrive, all of these sources will produce more revenue for the fund. Keeping this in mind and the characteristics of the district I represent, I believe that the SAF should not be transferred to the Community Colleges or Higher Education, and will not vote for that piece of legislation if it is a stand-alone vote.

Re-inventing is a verb that Governor Snyder has been using to explain many of the reforms and adjustments he has proposed in the budget, education included. Through his proposed changes, he is hoping to attain a higher level of excellence among our students and a higher quality education provided by our teachers. He spoke about implementing a very forward-thinking program called P-20 which includes pre-school through part of college to ensure our children get the support that they need to be college-ready. Other programs he suggests starting are "Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace Program", a "Degrees Matter" system, and to participate in the Gallup Student Poll to aid in the assessment, effectiveness and quality of education the state provides and promotes to students. He also suggests revamping the tenure qualifications currently in place to focus on a teacher's ability, skills, and improvements made from year to year, evaluations would also be executed yearly. Governor Snyder is attempting to replace the "cookie-cutter" education currently administered to a more flexible style of teaching that implements technology, craftsmanship and flexible hours for those students who seek these changes in their education.

Given that the State of Michigan is $1.4 billion dollars in deficit, we can no longer sustain the current system. Changes in the way our schools are funded need to start occurring at the district level. For the sake of transparency below I have attached links to our schools and a document that pertains to Novi Community Schools. These links may also be found on each school's individual website.

I am reading all information I am receiving with regard to the proposed education adjustments, including constituent concerns. I believe that our students and their education is the number one priority in Michigan's education system. Please understand that any reduction in the proposed cuts can only cause greater cuts to another department in our state. Discussion will continue in the weeks to come and I will keep your concerns in mind as the proposal progresses.

Thanks again for the e-mail.


From Terese:
I am particularly concerned about the paragraph above that I have changed to RED.
First, the $170 wasn't one time money from the Federal Government until last year when our legislators chose to use the Federal $$$ to cover what they had cut from education themselves! And that part about "under funded health and retirement plan benefits incurred by school boards"..........we don't bargain retirement plans. That is done at the state level!

Plus, they are ONLY underfunded because the state underfunds schools. They weren't underfunded when school districts could raise their own money. They don't need to be underfunded either! It is a choice the legislature and the governor have proposed. In their proposals they have MANUFACTURED an underfunding of the schools through the proposed shift of funds from the School Aid Fund to the General Fund! To have this rep turn around and blame it on the schools is beyond belief!

Here is a third letter that a WLEA member received in response to their BLAST! This one is much more education friendly!

Dear Education Advocate,
I'm emailing today to let you know that the vote on school budget cuts could happen as soon as tomorrow, Thursday, May 5. I'm strongly opposed to this plan that could potentially shift more than a billion dollars away from our struggling schools.
Unfortunately, House printing rules do not allow me to use this email to suggest that you try to influence the vote of other House members or even provide you with detailed information on how you can contact other offices. However, I am confident that anyone passionate enough about this issue will find a way to make their voice heard.
As you are probably aware, I have been working with a number of my colleagues around the clock trying to stop the devastating cuts proposed for our public schools in the recent state budget. At education task force meetings across our district and around the state, we've heard from parents, students, and educators about how this raid on already strapped budgets could cost us jobs, drive up class sizes, and hurt our students' ability to compete.
There still may be a chance to change some minds, but we need to act now. Thank you for your support and work on this critical issue.
State Representative Ellen Cogen Lipton 27th House District