Saturday, May 14, 2011

Manufactured Budget Crisis?

The Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency released its economic outlook this week in advance of Monday's official revenue forecast.  The Senate's revenue predictions are based on the tax requirements prior to Governor Snyder's huge shift in taxes from business to individuals, particularly retirees and lower income workers.  
In fiscal year (FY) General Fund/General Purpose (GF/GP) and School Aid Fund (SAF) revenue is expected to total $18.8 billion, up 6.6% from FY 2009-10. The increase reflects an improving economy, combined with lower income tax refunds, and is $557.3 million above the January 2011 consensus estimate. General Fund/General Purpose revenue is estimated to rise 12.8% to $7.7 billion while SAF revenue will increase 2.7% to $11.1 billion.
In FY 2011-12, the economy will grow more slowly than in FY 2010-11, resulting in slower revenue growth. General Fund/General Purpose and SAF revenue will total an estimated $19.2 billion, up 2.2% from FY 2010-11 and $690.5 million above the January 2011 consensus estimate. General Fund/General Purpose revenue is expected to increase 2.3% from the FY 2010-11 level to $7.8 billion and SAF revenue is projected to grow 2.1% to $11.3 billion.
In FY 2012-13, GF/GP and SAF revenue will total an estimated $19.3 billion. This initial estimate for FY 2012-13 is 0.7% higher than the revised estimate for FY 2011-12, with substantial tax changes causing revenue to grow much more slowly than economic conditions would suggest. General Fund/General Purpose revenue will total an estimated $7.6 billion, a decline of 2.6% from FY 2011-12, while SAF revenue will rise to an estimated $11.7 billion, a 3.0% increase.
It now appears that much of Governor Snyder's "doom-and-gloom" predictions regarding our state's economy were misleading, or at the very least uninformed. Consequently, the Governor seemingly manufactured a crisis that allowed him to get away with (for now) shifting a billion dollars from K-12 public education through colleges and universities to support a general fund reduction in business taxes. While there's no guarantee that the Governor's plan will aid job growth in this state, there's definitely a guarantee that his cuts to public education will increase job loss, lead to higher class sizes, and further damage urban schools at a time when the focus should be on improving student achievement.
The new question is: “Why, with a big surplus in the state’s school budget, is my school district being cut so much?” The answer at this point seems to be: "Because we can.” That’s probably not going to go over well.
And he wrote this weeks before the Senate Fiscal Agency's belated projection, and passage of huge K-12 cuts by both branches of the legislature.  He updated his thoughts after both narrowly passed separate versions of a K-12 budget bill and predictions of the surplus began to surface:
Even as lawmakers were casting politically perilous votes to cut schools in the past few weeks, an assumption was emerging that the state could have as much as $500 million more in revenue than was estimated in January.
Respected columnist Julie Mack of the Kalamazoo Gazette also points out the shift in K-12 funds to support tax cuts for business:
According to an analysis released Friday by the state House Fiscal Agency, the tax overhaul will cost the School Aid Fund more than $660 million a year. In 2011-12, the lose of revenues from the business tax means the State Aid Fund will have $10.6 billion versus $11.3 billion. That equates to about $440 per student.
It's going to be an interesting couple of weeks coming up, but in the end there will be winners and losers.  The question, Governor Snyder, is whether you plan to bet Michigan's future on short term business gains with no guarantee of increasing job opportunities, or the education of our children who are the future of this great state?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Appreciation for our Teaching Team


Today is Teacher Appreciation Day in Michigan, part of an entire week devoted to expressing gratitude for the wonderful work our teachers - past and present - have done with kids. Teachers live in the middle of two worlds right now.  On one side are the minions of public school haters and union-bashing simpletons who have historically belittled the profession and blamed the results of their poor choices in life on teachers and public schools. Lately, they've been joined by the bastion of politicians, boy billionaires, and pretend educational leaders who have upped the visibility of the attacks and are now resorting to budgetary means of destroying the profession.  On the other side - the kids. Their wonderful smiles, daily struggles, and naive quest to understand how the world works reinforce why we sought the teaching profession and why we continue to remain despite the growing obstacles that make it harder every day to succeed.

I can remember every teacher I ever had and the many times they were there when I needed them most. It wasn't always to celebrate great achievements or even simple understanding.  Sometimes it was to reinforce the consequences of heading off in the wrong direction.  For the latter, I appreciate them the most. I don't quite recall if I ever expressed that appreciation at the time (I'm sure I didn't) but in life's rear-view mirror, I'm greatly indebted to them.

So here's to an awesome Godfrey-Lee teaching team! You are my heroes and certainly the heroes of hundreds of students who have graced your classrooms. While it may feel now that you are in a war zone with the future of your kids, your classrooms, and your careers at stake, know that every day you make a difference in the lives of many and you, more than any other person or profession, positively impact the future of our world.

Thank you!