More than 1,500 parents, students and educators from Plymouth-Canton, Livonia, Taylor and other districts rallied this morning on the Capitol steps before going inside to bring their message to elected officials.
Their message: Recent cuts to school aid were wrong and should be restored."We came here to raise our voices because they tried to cut money for Dearborn schools," said Kassem Alakhras, who has six children in the 18,097-student district, which lost about $12 million under reductions approved by lawmakers and additional cuts by Gov. Jennifer Granholm. "We came here to tell them just to fix it and put our money back."
About 150 people from Dearborn attended the rally. The Dearborn Board of Education Monday laid off 300 teachers due to a shortfall in money. Dearborn has lost more per pupil than any other district in the state. The legislature slashed $165 per student from all districts. Gov. Jennifer Granholm then ordered an additional $127 per pupil cut because of declining revenues in the School Aid Fund.
Follow that link to see a pretty impressive picture of the hall outside the Senate doors. It's packed. Kind of hard to ignore that, isn't it? Anyone who has a heart and a sense of responsibility would be moved by such a sight - of course, that leaves out Senator Mike Bishop, who is still clinging to his failed excuses of why the Senate won't act on funding the schools. Blame the governor, blame the House, avoid the fiscal reality of the drop in revenue since May... Bishop would rather just ignore the problem altogether if he can't get his way.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said he sympathizes with parents and schools. He said he's frustrated because lawmakers agreed to cut $165 per students, but then Granholm made additional cuts. He called on Granholm to restore what he called "punitive cuts," including the $127 per student cut that is to start in December and the $52 million for high-spending districts.
Matt Marsden, Bishop's spokesman, called on House Democrats to approve $306 million in revenue bills approved by the Senate. About $100 million of the money would go to schools. The bills would freeze the earned income tax credit and personal income tax exemption, trim film industry tax credits and grant a tax amnesty to bring in outstanding income tax revenue.
The DNews neglects to mention the cut to the MBT that is tied to the Senate "revenue", a cut that would leave a bigger deficit in the future. The House has indicated that they aren't interested in Bishop's proposal, and that means that the legislature, to this day, has not filled the $100 million in "unspecified" funding for K-12, even if we DID use Bishop's May numbers. Sorry about the cuts, Dearborn, but they were necessary due to the Bishop-Dillon "agreement" that left you short in the first place.
Bishop whines to the press about the all the "pressure". Boo hoo, grab some tissues, poor Mike can't take the heat.
"It's making us go at each others' throats at a time when we can least afford it," says Bishop, "This is a time when we all ought to be working together to figure out how to solve this in the long term, and that's why I've asked the governor to stop these road shows, where she goes out and stirs the pot because it's not helpful; it's counterproductive."
Working together? When was that? Did I miss that part? Seems to me that the Republicans won't "work" with anyone on this, as indicated by the statements above. So, they haven't finished the original budget, the hole is getting deeper, and the Republicans are still saying "No!" to funding the schools. Governor Granholm says that the education community is now suggesting a ballot proposal, and unfortunately that might be just what it takes to get this accomplished in the end.
Granholm added she hopes Bishop and other Republicans listen to educators and other constituents "who hired them" and support "narrowly targeted" revenue increases for schools. Up until now, the Senate has taken a "no, no, no" stance on revenue, she said.
The governor said the education community favors a ballot plan to extend the sales tax to services. She said she would back the proposal if school officials want to take the lead on selling it to voters.
Sounds good. A graduated income tax, and an extension of taxes to services (like most states); let's put it on the ballot if the legislature won't act. Time to get our tax system in line with today's economy, and let's leave the fiscally irresponsible Republicans out of the picture. If Bishop's only answers to this situation are to ignore the problem and/or make it worse by insisting on "more tax cuts", the Republicans need to be disqualified when it comes to working on a solution. The schools may have to go through a really rough year until it happens though, but at least it would be out of Mike Bishop's hands at that point.
Get some lawyers on this, and let's do it.