Sunday, March 6, 2011

Advocating for our Kids

As we consider Governor Rick Snyder's proposed state budget and its potential devastating impact on education, it's clear that the only sector (K-12, community colleges, and state universities) that will experience real pain is K- 12 owing to the significant reduction in the school aid fund (SAF).

1. The K-12 SAF was projected to have a balance of $600 million prior to the Governor's budget proposal and tax restructuring.

2. The Governor has proposed community colleges receive $196 million from the K-12 SAF, and state universities be allocated $700 million from the SAF.

3. Owing to the Governor's tax restructuring proposals and the above reallocations to community colleges and state universities, this will place the SAF in deficit. To offset the deficit, the Governor is proposing reducing the student foundation allowance an additional $300 per student over the $170 mid-year reduction school districts received in 2009-10.

4. When we combine the proposed cuts to K-12 of $470 per student, PLUS the cost of 3.8% increase to our district's contributions to the state retirement system, PLUS the likely increase by at least 15% (and possibly higher) in health insurance premiums, this has a net effect of reducing our district's scarce operating revenues by an additional $800 to $900 per pupil. This means the district stands to lose nearly $1.7 million for 2011-12 just from the governor's proposal and failure on the part of the state to act on rising retirement and health insurance costs.

5. When you add these to other contractually obligated increased costs such as salary and wage step increases as well as the drop-off in federal stimulus funding, the district faces an unprecedented deficit of $2.86 million for the 2011-12 school year. That represents nearly 15 percent of our current year operating budget.

While we believe that right now provides an unprecedented opportunity to reimagine and reshape our district, schools and classrooms around the 21st century learning needs of our students, we cannot readily meet this challenge while facing a massive deficit and potentially going broke in a year or two. When the plane is on fire and spiraling towards impending doom, that's not the time to build a better airplane. We must have financial stability in our school system at the same time we're restructuring to provide more individualized, project-based innovative learning. 


There's a local economic impact to the Governor's proposal to slash K-12 funding, as well. Combined, the public schools are the largest employer in Kent County but are slated to lose another 400- 
plus jobs under the Governor's budget proposal, in addition to hundreds of jobs already lost over the past decade due to 
declining state support.
● A minimum $32 million hit to the local economy.
● Local businesses will suffer from lack of spendable income.
● There will be less taxes collected and submitted to the State of Michigan to assist with recovery.
● This economic “hit” doesn't guarantee that 400 “new and better” jobs will be created in Kent County.
● There is absolutely no guarantee that any of the net savings realized by severely cutting K-12 public education will be returned to the taxpayer or used for the good of the county. On the contrary, much of it will be siphoned off and used for other governmental purposes.
What is the potential impact on Godfrey-Lee Public Schools, a 1,800-student district serving the educational needs of a high-poverty, high limited English proficient, high transient urban area? Here's just a sampling of what could happen if Governor Snyder's "slash-and-burn" approach to "school improvement" goes forward:
1. Larger class sizes despite a high, urban at-risk student population.
2. Erosion of services for high percentage of English language learners and special needs students.
3. Loss of well-rounded educational programs including electives such as art, music and physical education.
4. Reduction in athletic programs.
5. Reduction or elimination of daily bus transportation for elementary students.
6. Potential elimination of of all-day Kindergarten.
7. Erosion of facilities, culture and climate including less cleaning and maintenance.
8. Potential 20% reduction in teaching staff.
9. More responsibilities placed on an already overloaded administrative staff.
10. Reduction of professional development of teaching staff.
11. Reduction in extra-curricular activities for students.
12. Unstaffed or potential complete closure of school library & media centers.
13. Less staff available to support students in and out of the classroom.
14. Non-replacement of aging technology and curriculum materials.
15. Elimination of extended day and year learning opportunities for at-risk students.

If name-calling makes them feel better, they can call us "whiners" all they want. We're going to continue advocating for our kids until the last public school is shut down.

Here is the contact Information for Godfrey-Lee area's state leaders.  Please contact them with your concerns and request that they leave the school aid fund for K-12 schools:
Governor Rick Snyder
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing, Michigan 48909
PHONE: (517) 335-7858
FAX: (517) 335-6863

State Senator Mark Jansen
P.O. Box 30036
Lansing, MI  48909-7536
PHONE: (517) 373-0797
FAX: (517) 373-5236

State Representative Thomas Hooker - 77 th District (includes Wyoming)
N-1096 House Office Building
P.O. Box 30014
Lansing, MI  48909
PHONE: (517) 373-2277
TOLL FREE: (855) 866-4077

State Representative Brandon Dillon - 75 th District (includes Grand Rapids)
P.O. Box 30014
Lansing, MI 48909-7514
PHONE: (517) 373-2668
FAX: (517) 373-5696
TOLL-FREE: (888) 750-3326

State Representative Roy Schmidt - 76 th District (includes Grand Rapids)
P.O. Box 30014
Lansing, MI 48909-7514
PHONE: (517) 373-0822
FAX: (517) 373-5276
TOLL-FREE: (877) 976-4769

Or, you can locate your State representative at: