Tuesday, May 28, 2013

cyber schools already making plans

Okemos Parents for Schools reports that 32 cyber schools are set to open in Michigan in 2013-14.  These will operate throughout the state and will compete with our schools for dollars.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Action alert from Tri-County Alliance for Public Education

Yesterday, the State's leading economists agreed that there is an additional and unexpected $483 million surplus for the current fiscal year.

On the heels of the well-documented financial crises in Buena Vista, Pontiac and now Albion, we think there should be no debate: It's time to do the right thing and invest in education.

This money could go a long way to restoring the devastating cuts enacted by Lansing politicians over the past few years.

Governor Snyder talks a lot about Michigan being the "Comeback State", but with headlines detailing schools closing early and high schools ceasing to exist, it's clear that mantra will never be realized without our Governor and Legislative leadership finally funding schools.

Please TAKE ACTION to tell Lansing that it's time to do the right thing and invest in education!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Why will funding roads take money from schools

A brief summary by Steve Norton, Michigan Parents for Schools

Why will funding roads take money from schools?

So, what's up with roads and schools?
Dear Friends,

First off, let me thank the hundreds of you who have already contacted your State Representatives about road funding and the threat to our schools. Your message is important and is getting through.

Many people have asked for a bit more information about this whole deal - and I certainly understand, because it's somewhat complicated. I'm reprinting our earlier action alert below, but let me sketch out what is happening on this issue:

The Governor wants to find $1.2 billion to repair state roads. The Legislature would like to do this for the Governor, but a majority of legislators have signed "no new taxes" pledges to help them get elected. Since the state doesn't have $1.2 billion sitting around, that means finding new revenue. So, what to do?

Our lawmakers have been very clever - or sneaky, depending on your point of view. Right now, there are two kinds of taxes on fuel: "specific" taxes, like excise taxes, and the regular sales tax. The "specific" taxes on fuel are already legally earmarked for transportation, but they don't bring in enough money to fund the Governor's program. The regular sales tax on gasoline and diesel fuel brings in some $1 billion, but that mostly goes to schools, with the rest going to local governments and the state general fund.

So, to find money for roads, lawmakers are trying to have their cake and eat it too: they want to increase the "specific" taxes on fuel that are legally earmarked for transportation so they generate the money the Governor wants. Then, they want to eliminate the sales tax on fuel, so that they can say they didn't raise taxes.

Where does this leave schools, which stand to lose some $750 million out of the deal (almost $500 per student)? Well, they're "working on it." Discussions have been going on for months about how to "replace" the revenue to schools and local government. So far, there are only some ideas floating around and no agreement on anything. The idea that seems to come up most often is to increase the sales tax from 6% to 7%, hopefully making up the difference to schools. Sounds good, right?

We have some real problems with this "arrangement":
  1. Increasing the sales tax would require a vote of all the people to amend the state Constitution. The earliest this could take place is November, and even then, no one knows for sure that it would pass. (We just voted down a whole passel of proposed amendments last fall, remember?)
  2. One of the problems school funding has faced is that the sales tax, which right now covers retail goods, is not keeping up with growth in the economy even in good times. This proposal would require a huge effort to pass an amendment that would not solve this problem.
  3. The current sales tax falls hardest on families with limited incomes. Instead of finding a more fair way to fund our schools, this proposal would make things harder for these families.
  4. Finally, lawmakers want to move these bills that change fuel taxes NOW, even though we would not know until November whether schools would get replacement funding!
This is nonsense, plain and simple. This whole exercise is simply to allow our state "leaders" to push responsibility for finding new revenue off onto the people. If we want to invest in our roads, we need to find a sensible way to fund that and not put our schools at risk. If we are going to change school funding, we need to address the fact that current funding levels simply are not adequate to deliver an excellent education to all our children.

If you'd like to know more about these bills, you can read the non-partisan House Fiscal Agency analyses here and here. For a review of transportation funding and spending, read this for lots of detail.

Thanks for taking action to protect our public schools.

Steven Norton
Executive Director
Michigan Parents for Schools

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Legislative Committee Communication 5/8/13 (note additional house bills)

To:  EGRPS Families
From:  PTA Legislative Committee
Several legislative policies currently under consideration in Lansing could severely impact the school budget for East Grand Rapids Public Schools. The PTA Legislative Committee wants to make sure that EGRPS parents are aware of the proposals and what is at stake so that you can let our legislators know that this community supports its public schools and does not support policies that will decimate the programs that make EGRPS a successful district.
ISSUE: The School Aid Budget
Currently, with the three budget proposals (Governor’s, House’s, and Senate’s), local school districts can expect a net cut of between $2 and $52 per pupil. (Please click here for a detailed analysis by Michigan Parents for Schools.)  In addition to the proposed funding cuts, we are concerned about a provision that is common in all three of the school aid budgets.  This provision would require school districts to pay private online vendors, who are unaccountable for student academic performance, for up to two classes per year if students choose this option. This could potentially siphon more money away from EGRPS’ per pupil funding.
ISSUE: Roads vs. Schools (House Bills 4571, 4572, 4677 and 4539)
House Bills 4571, 4572, 4677, and 4539 would shift gas taxes, which benefit schools, to other fuel taxes that are exclusively committed to transportation. This would result in about an $800 million reduction in the School Aid Fund.  The effect of such a shift would be at least a $500 per pupil cut on top of the funding decreases we are already trying to manage. This would be devastating to EGRPS. Replacement revenue has not been guaranteed. (Click here and here for the House Fiscal Committee’s legislative analyses of these bills.)
If you share the same concerns, call and/or email:
·    Representative Pete MacGregor at (517) 373-0218, PeterMacGregor@house.mi.gov, and
·    Senator Mark Jansen at (517) 373-0797, SenMJansen@senate.michigan.gov, and
· Governor Snyder at (517) 373-3400, https://somgovweb.state.mi.us/GovRelations/ShareOpinion.aspx.

Other state representatives’ information can be found here: 

Tell Them:
  1. To oppose any reduction to the total per pupil funding.  It is dishonest for legislators to claim that they are increasing per pupil funding while simultaneously reducing other types of aid that our public schools depend on, resulting, in fact, in a net loss to school budgets.
  2. To remove from the final school aid budget the provision requiring school districts to allow students to take two online classes per year.  This would siphon money from our schools, while giving it to private online vendors who are not held accountable for student academic performance, while at the same time holding our schools accountable for the students’ academic performance in those online classes.
  3. Not to resolve the road crisis on the backs of our schools. The legislature would be acting in a highly irresponsible way by removing the funding that gas taxes provide for schools without an assured funding replacement – one that does not rely on a ballot measure.
  4. To stop using money from the School Aid Fund for purposes other than K-12 funding.  The School Aid Fund has enough money to restore the per pupil funding cuts of the last several years and actually invest in K-12 public education, but not if those funds continue to be divided among other recipients, such as universities and community colleges.
The Legislative Committee wants to thank everyone who has made calls to our legislators in the past as our voices have been heard.  Thank you for your continued commitment to East Grand Rapids Public Schools!
Who We Are: As a committee of the EGRPS PTA Council, the Legislative Committee comprises parents, teachers, and Board of Education members.  The Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent of Business, while not members of the committee, regularly attend our meetings so that we can share information and work collaboratively to set and advance legislative priorities that benefit EGRPS.  The Committee provides information to EGRPS families through the PTA Blasts and the blog; regularly communicates with state legislators and mobilizes other parents to do so; and supports similar grassroots parent advocacy groups in school districts across the state.