Senator Dayna Polehanki is a Democrat who represents the 7th Senate District, which includes the townships of Canton, Northville, and Plymouth, as well as the cities of Livonia, Northville, Plymouth and Wayne. She spent almost 20 years in the classroom. (Courtesy photo)
It’s that time of year again. Every year, Michigan Republicans — who control both the House and Senate — trot out a series of graphics about education funding, proclaiming they’ve presided over “record funding” and even “the most in our state’s history!”
This is a classic case of smoke and mirrors. By the same standard, the GOP is feeding a scrawny, underfed dog a few extra kibbles and boasting they provided it with a “historic amount of dog food.” However, the dog is still starving.
While technically there has been an increase in raw dollar funding, the dire reality is this: It isn’t nearly enough to keep up with inflation’s true impact on our schools’ budgets. Michigan ranks dead last among states in school funding growth since the passage of Proposal A. In fact, the current fiscal year funding is 38 percent lower than funding would have been if we had kept pace with inflation since 1994, as measured by the state and local government price deflator.
It is also notable the GOP’s graphic touting annual increases to the foundation allowance only began with the 2011-12 school year — the same time a massive cut of $470 per pupil occurred. Had their graphic included previous years back to 2008-09, it would show that schools are just now reaching the same level of funding they had a decade ago. To begin a graph in the year of a truly historic funding cut in order to show incremental growth from that point forward is not just deceptive, it’s dishonest.
The budget proposal being sent to the governor does not do enough for special education and at-risk students, the Great Start Readiness Program, or pre-kindergarten programs. These children have vastly suffered under Proposal A, and unfortunately, will continue to suffer from the previous administration’s one-size-fits-all approach to third-grade reading.
It is both immoral and irresponsible to make schools a place where children, especially our most vulnerable, are made winners or losers because elected officials refuse to come to terms with the shortfalls in our education funding or provide real, tangible solutions. Every student deserves an opportunity to gain the skills they need to thrive, make ends meet, find and keep a good-paying job, and earn job security.
Further, as Republicans continue to publish hand-picked numbers, the fact is not all of that money goes into the classroom.
That is why we must ensure School Aid dollars are directed only to K-12 schools, and it is time to support a weighted funding system that acknowledges the cost of providing a world-class education isn’t the same in every district or even every classroom.
To fail our students is to fail our state. We must make sure every student has multiple paths to a good-paying job. As it currently stands, the GOP’s budget proposal for K-12 funding falls well short and amounts more to a shrug of the shoulders to say “we did something” rather than truly DOING something.
It’s time to stop playing political games with our children and our state’s future, and instead make a meaningful, comprehensive investment in our schools and our children.