By Jennifer Wendel
In their “new era of responsibility,” Michigan politicians have become unaccountable for their own actions, irresponsibly slashing the budget for necessities like public education. A proposed $515 decrease in spending per student will be voted on next week as part of Governor Rick Snyder’s budget. Though down from the $715 per student cuts that the Governor originally proposed, this budget would place an excessive burden on school districts already struggling to stay afloat.
Though Michigan is one of many states stricken by budget distress, the mere thought of placing the responsibility for recovery on the backs of school children should have sent shivers through state legislators. Instead, their proposed budget will target under-funded schools whose wealth status will not factor into the percent cut from their district; 5% can make a huge difference to impoverished schools. This is particularly problematic in Kalamazoo, where teachers’ salaries already fall below the national average.
Even though the budget was re-negotiated last week to reduce the portion of educational cuts, state legislators are looking in the wrong places for extra money. In order to meet this budget’s demands, some schools say they would have to cut band, athletics, non-mandatory busing and counseling services, and increase their class sizes while laying off teachers. Students will be left with very little to motivate them.
Some have suggested that failing schools was the ultimate plan for this budget slash, because it would give politicians an excuse to privatize education. A closer look at public education will prove that without its open policies, a good portion of U.S. citizens wouldn’t have their high school degrees, since private schools can reject under-preforming and special-needs children.
Whatever the intended effect of these budget cuts, they are taking Michigan in the wrong direction. As school funds are being cut, $1.6 billion of Michigan business taxes are being eliminated, and the Governor is providing exemptions and credits for some income taxes. Michigan legislators need to start caring about more than numbers and invest in Michigan’s future by funding schools. It’s their responsibility to do so.