Thursday, April 21, 2011

Grassroots/Friends of Kent County Schools Update

Hi Everyone! I went to the Friends of Kent County/Grassroots meeting yesterday. Bob Emerson was there. He was a Genesee County legislator for 20 years and one of the people to draft Proposal A. they didn't put specific language about K-12 education in it. It was implied. His concern was that there is no collective memory of that struggle and why Proposal A was constructed. 65 of the 110 House legislators are brand new. 30 are in their second term. Only 15 are in their third term. They are all rookies.

He was also the budget director last spring when the barrier was breached and $200 million was "borrowed" from the School Aid Fund. So, now we have this mess.

He also mentioned that $200 million being taken out of the School Aid Fund is being placed in the fund responsible for State worker retirement workers. This retirement fund is $13 billion underfunded. $200 million is a drop in the bucket. Mr. Emerson stated that this is not the time to be funding the retirement liability of state workers when there is a crisis. Also, he pointed out that the public school employee retirement fund is also underfunded and nothing has been put there.

Both the state and house subcommittees on education appropriation have pushed their bills out of committee. The Senate version goes back to cutting the foundation grant to half for half day kindergarten. This is an old one. Again, the people who crafted Proposal A knew that it costs a different amount to educate children at different ages. they gave one grant for all kids figuring that the school districts would use the money wisely. It simply costs more to educate a high school kid than a kindergartener whether half or full day. We strongly disagree with cutting kindergarten funding. The House version contains a provision for a percentage cut to schools rather than a dollar amount which would be more complicated, but possibly more fair, especially to small and poor districts.

The full House and Senate have to vote on each of their bills. Then, each house brings their version to Committee where the House and Senate have to compromise. There is still time to have an impact. We are working with the school board and administration to organize the petitions and figure out the best way to share them with the legislators and the governor. Let me know if you have any ideas. Keep sending your letters and making your phone calls. They are making a difference, but we can't let up!

Please consider going to the Budget Town Hall Meeting being put on by