Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Question about Race to the Top

Many changes were made to education in the State of Michigan in response to the Race to the Top incentives. We did not win the grants, but we are obliged to comply with the changes. Apparently, EGRPS is already doing some of the requirements, such as teacher evaluations, which is a model for other districts. Some of the other provisions, such as a merit pay scale, however, we aren’t doing. We are in Year 1 of a 3 year window. Is the legislature going to provide funding for districts to meet these requirements? Should we rescind these laws?

A Question about Retiree Benefits and the Budget

We learned that the State of Michigan’s compromise with the teachers resulted in a 3% increase in teacher contribution to the retirement program. This is a plan to allow the retirement program to remain solvent and for the percentage of the student foundation grant going to retirement to remain close to the same (around 19% of every salary dollar—from the student foundation grant-- goes to retirement benefits). Since that compromise was made, the teachers’ union has sued the State over this and that 3% is now being taken from the teacher’s salary, but it is not being used for retirement, it is being placed in a holding pot while the lawsuit is resolved. It seems like this is an example of continuing partisan wrangling. Do you have a plan for compromising with the opposite party once you are in office? Do you have any insight into keeping our promise to retirees without bankrupting our current operations?

A Question about Consolidation/GR Press Article

This past summer, the Grand Rapids Press had a 10.0 article about consolidating school districts in the State of Michigan. In the article, the reporter highlighted that there are 550 school districts in the state and that there is some duplication of services. Since consolidating services has been on the agenda of the Legislative Committee since before this article was written, we revisited the issue with the administration since the beginning of this school year. What we found was that this school district is collaborating with both the KISD and other districts on a number of services which are saving money and preventing cuts. We are contracting with GRPS for food services. We are sharing a school psychologist with Forest Hills. We have adopted the KISD business software to increase efficiency. We also collaborate with KISD on special education, OT and transportation services. Will you be backing collaboration like these examples or consolidation? Do you back fundamental tax structure changes that would be required to make consolidation work?

A Question about Preschool Funding

Last year during the severe budget cuts, preschool education was severely cut. There is much literature that shows that money spent in good preschool education results in less money spent later on prisons and health care. An editorial in the Grand Rapids Press last February sited this research when it condemned the cuts. Would you support these cuts?

A Question about Technology

EGRPS has amazing technology in our schools. An article in the GR Press on September 8, 2010 reviewed all of the high tech changes in schools that are happening despite severe cuts over the last year. Our district passed a technology bond which has allowed us to expand our technology. We are at the end of this funding source and the administration and the school board are looking into ways to provide upkeep to what we have and to expand it. Our sinking fund does not allow the purchase of technology. Do you think it is time to change this? Do you have any other suggestions for funding technology?

A Question about Federal dollars and the structural deficit

During the last three school years, the School Aid Fund has been propped up with federal stimulus dollars and this year with the last of the stimulus dollars and with one time money coming from the Edu-jobs money which was a law that was passed this past August. These federal dollars are more than $350 of the approximately $7500 per pupil funding provided to each school district for every public school student. Next school year, the federal stimulus dollars will not be there. What are you going to do about this structural deficit that continues to plague Michigan schools?

A Question From Monday About Proposal A/School Aid Fund “Surplus”

My understanding is that Proposal A was passed in 1994 for the purpose of providing property tax relief to Michigan residents and to try to make education funding more equitable across school districts by having the State of Michigan collect statewide taxes and distribute the money to school districts on a per pupil funding basis which is supposed to level the playing field.

The taxes that are collected for schools is placed in the budget in the bucket called the School Aid Fund, which was supposed to be only used for K-12 education.

The estimation for the taxes for the School Aid Fund were made last January and they were dire due to the economy. In May, the taxes collected were $200 million mmore than anticipated. The money was taken out of the School Aid Fund and used elsewhere in the budget. I contacted my legislators to tell them that this was unfair and illegal under Proposal A. What would you have done?

How Did Hot Topics in Education Legislation Go?

We had a good turnout for Monday night’s candidate forum, Hot Topics in Education Legislation. About 30 people heard the public education positions of the candidates for 86th district, Lisa Posthumus Lyons (R) and Frank Hammond. We will be posting the prepared questions as they were asked on Monday. My overall impression is summed up by committee member Tina Murua’s assessment: “It's a question of whether

funding schools will bring good jobs (Hammond's position); or good jobs will bring funding to schools (Posthumus-Lyons position). With that in mind, don’t forget to vote November 2!


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Questions for the Forum

Please let me know if you have a question for our prospective legislators for the October 18, 2010 Hot Topics in Education Legislation event.  We have some great topics already and we will have question slips for the audience, but we would love to know what voters are concerned about.


Time Magazine Article

In preparing questions for the October 18 Hot Topics in Education Legislation forum, I wanted to share an article in the most recent Time Magazine.  Zakaria, Fareed. The New Challenge From China. Time. October 18, 2010.  In this article, the reporter interviews the premier of China and goes on to tell us that China is changing its tactics to from investing in infrastructure to investing in people.  In the last 10 years, China has doubled its universities, quadrupled its college students and tripled the share of GDP or Gross Domestic Product that is spent on education, particularly higher education.  Our kids are going to be competing head to head with these students while in the last decade, k-12 and higher education have received nothing but budget cuts.  Do we have the political fortitude to change this trend?


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Questions for the Candidates

This is our chance to meet the new legislator for Michigan House District 86!  Although we don't yet know if it will be Lisa Posthumus Lyons (R) or Frank Hammond (D), we need to make our voices known and we need to let them both know we are passionate about public education!

If you have questions, please submit them to

The Three Main Points from the October 4, 2010 meeting

1. Candidate Forum, Hot Topics in Education Legislation, Monday, October 18, 2010 7pm at the Community Center. Please plan on coming and please encourage parents in your circle to come. Questions for the candidates are being formalized and Committee members will ask them as well as asking for questions from the audience that night.

2. $154 in per pupil funding was restored for each public school student in Michigan in due to federal funding through the Edu-jobs bill passed in August. Although this replaces all of the money cut last year, the money is one-time federal dollars and still does not address what the state is going to do next year when all federal dollars have dried up.

3. The 3% increase in teacher contribution to the retirement fund is being placed in a holding fund due to an MEA class action lawsuit. So, the % of each salary dollar spent on retirement is going to rise over the next few years even though teachers are paying more.