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Public school advocates blast Snyder

Gov. Rick Snyder

Gov. Rick Snyder

‘Snyder needs to be held accountable for his education policies’

LANSING — Anticipating Gov. Rick Snyder’s Jan. 16 State of the State address, advocates of public education and an educator from an Education Achievement Authority-controlled high school criticized Gov. Rick Snyder for his underfunding of public education.

“We all know the way to build stronger communities and strengthen the middle class is through smart, strategic investments in public education,” said David Hecker, president of the American Federation of Teachers-Michigan. “I won’t be surprised if Gov. Snyder acknowledges this in his State of the State address. But even though Snyder says he values education, his budget reflects different values.”

In 2011, his first year in office, Snyder slashed higher education funding by 15 percent while simultaneously cutting $1.6 billion from the school aid fund. He did it to help fill a $1.8 billion general fund hole created by cutting corporate taxes. In a recently published opinion piece, U.S. Senator Carl Levin said for every six dollars U.S. families pay in income tax, corporations pay one.

Public protest at the time forced the governor to agree to a one-time state payment of $200 per student. However, he said it was only to be paid to the districts that practiced what the governor called, “financial best practices.” That meant employees of the district had to be paying a minimum of ten percent of their health care, according to Tanya Somansader of Think Progress.

In 2012, the corporate tax cuts cost the school aid fund $700 million, the Kalamazoo Gazette reported. It was the lowest school aid fund revenue since 1994. Adding to education woes was the fact that a dollar in 2012 bought the district one-sixth less that it purchased five years earlier.

Snyder’s pilfering of the school aid fund continued. Doug Pratt, director of member and political engagement at the Michigan Education Association said despite the importance of early childhood education, Snyder’s policies on the subject robbed Peter to pay Paul.

“Last year, 2013, Snyder put $65 million into early childhood education, but that funding was siphoned out of the School Aid Fund. And we expect that number to double next year to $130 million,” Pratt said. ”We need to ensure the long-term viability of these programs. But investing in our preschoolers shouldn’t come at the expense of our kindergarteners. It’s time the governor and other lawmakers in Lansing valued all levels of education, not just early childhood programs.”

Jay Haffner, a teacher at Denby High School in Detroit — one of 15 schools taken over by the state-created EAA — spoke on the call about his concerns regarding Snyder’s experimental school district. In the EAA’s first year the state okayed the borrowing of $12 million from cash-strapped Detroit Public Schools to keep the EAA afloat.EAA financial distress continued.

“As a professional teacher in the EAA, it’s clear to me the EAA is not properly or effectively supporting the 15 schools currently under its umbrella. There is much work to be done in that regard,” Haffner said. “Instead of expanding, I feel the EAA should focus on providing the current EAA schools with the adequate resources that were promised two years ago when this district hit the ground running.”

Haffner continued, “I urge anyone with a controlling stake in this district to take the time and necessary due diligence to examine how we can improve the distribution and access of resources across the current EAA and help craft a plan that holds district level administrators more accountable to the children they serve prior to expanding the district any further.”

— Staff Report


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