education cuts

Yesterday, I talked about the challenges the University of Michigan’s new president faces. One of those is, of course, the fact that it is becoming increasingly difficult to afford an education.

That provoked a lot of reaction, and I was surprised by the tone of a lot of it.

Specifically, many people feel that especially with the lagging economy, it makes no sense for students to study things that won’t clearly pay off in a job.

"There's nothing wrong with art appreciation. There are plenty of books, DVDs and YouTube clips out there," one man said. But he thought it was outrageous that someone would spend a vast amount of money on something "that will turn out to be a nice hobby," and then "complain about the lack of job opportunities."

Marshall High School
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Albion students are a step closer to knowing where they’ll be going to high school this fall.

Albion High School is closing for budget reasons.    The district will continue to provide K through 8 education. 

The Marshall school board voted last night to open its high school to Albion’s students.  Albion’s school board will vote on the cooperative agreement next week.    

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A community activist is making a unique protest, in hopes of rallying people in Albion to fight the closure of their high school.

With a kiss from one of his supporters, Bobby Holley started crawling.   He intends to crawl, on his hands and knees, the 30 miles from Battle Creek to Albion.   

He says he wants to rally the people of Albion, so they will fight the decisions to close their high school

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Michigan schools have been in headlines for a while now: For many, the mention of Buena Vista schools instantly calls up an image of a closed public school.

Michigan Radio's Cynthia Canty spoke with Eric Scoresone, an economist at Michigan State University, and Michelle Richard, a senior consultant at Public Sector Consultants in Lansing.

One of the biggest problems for schools is receiving funding based on a per student basis, Richard said.

"There were 1,000 students at Buena Vista in 2009-2010, and now there are only 400. You can only cut so quickly and if you don't have kids in seats then you are forced to make challenging decisions."

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint School District is planning over one hundred layoffs, the Flint Journal reported.

139 teachers and faculty in Flint will receive pink slips, with the staff cuts going into effect the day after school gets out on June 10.

While the interim superintendent emphasized the possible rehiring of many of these teachers at the end of June, the school district’s deficit reduction plan calls for firing 150 teachers over the next three years.

The Flint School District has three years to chop away at a $15.6-million deficit. If the deficit isn’t eliminated by their 2015 deadline, the district could lose state funding.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

State officials say they don’t expect they’ll have to lay off employees due to the loss of $150 million dollars in federal funds this year and next. That’s how much the state is expected to lose because of the budget standoff in Washington.

The state budget office says it has a plan that averts public employee layoffs.

But Governor Rick Snyder says the state has no plans to replace the money lost because of sequestration – which amounts to about four-tenths of one percent of total state spending.   

user kakisky / morgueFile

Full day kindergarten may be in store for more Michigan children, due to changes in the school aid budget.

Schools currently get the same amount of per pupil funding whether they offer half day kindergarten or full day kindergarten. But starting this fall, schools that offer half day kindergarten will see their per pupil funding for those students cut in half.

The state legislature approved the school budget funding change last year.

Here are several different school districts' takes on the changes:

One size does not fit all

Livingston County's Brighton Public Schools currently get the full $7,000 per pupil for half day kindergarten students. They’ll get $3,500 for half day kindergarten students beginning with the 2012 school year.

Greg Gary is superintendent for Brighton area schools. He says the drop in funding is going to hurt his budget, but he refuses to cut half day kindergarten from the schedule:

"Not every kid is going to excel in a full day program. I have two children, and I would have put one in full day kindergarten, and one in half day kindergarten, because kids are different."

user krossbow / Flickr

Eastern Michigan University's Board of Regents has approved a contract that will bring more job security and better wages to part-time faculty at Eastern Michigan University.

The regents unanimously approved the agreement on Tuesday. The contract takes effect immediately.

These are tough times for teachers.

Actually, this is an even tougher time for education. Yet the  way in which all sides have been approaching this major and growing statewide crisis is, at the very least bizarre.

Take the Michigan Education Association, for example. It is by far the state’s largest teacher’s union, and has been around since before the Civil War. It proudly proclaims “the mission of the MEA is to ensure that the education of our students and the working environments of our members are of the highest quality.”

That sounds good. But if you watch what they do, rather than what they say, you might conclude their charter statement really says: “The MEA’s mission is to prevent our members’ salaries and benefits from being cut by any means necessary.”

That’s really what the union is about. I was reminded of this yesterday by the revelation that the MEA spent $25,000  dollars to try and get Paul Scott, a state representative from Grand Blanc, recalled. Why the union is doing this isn’t clear.

Except out of sheer vindictiveness. Scott, who chairs the House Education Committee, voted this year to slash elementary and high school funding by twice as much as was actually cut.

I wouldn’t expect the union to support him for reelection. But recalling him would in no way change the balance of power in Lansing. If you are a teacher in Holly, say, you might wonder,“Is that what I pay several hundred dollars in dues for?"

That doesn’t mean the education community should be pleased with government. Most members of the Republican majority in Lansing would enthusiastically agree  that this state needs a much better educated workforce. However, most are entirely capable of uttering in the next breath that we need to cut teacher salaries and, especially, benefits and pensions.

What is especially puzzling is that so few people see this as a contradiction. These days, Republicans control every branch of state government, and have been energetically cutting  spending on education, to give business large tax breaks instead.

The Budget

Feb 17, 2011

Well, the governor’s budget has landed, and people are  shocked. They shouldn’t be. This is what we bargained for. This budget is, in part, a legacy of the last thirty years.

Starting with Ronald Reagan, we’ve been told repeatedly that taxes were bad. Not that they were sometimes too high, but that they were bad, period. So we cut them, and cut them again.