In an effort to correct some of the inequities between rich urban districts and poor rural districts, a proposal was passed on a vote of the electorate that would increase funding to rural schools while providing a slower growth to richer districts. The funding was also changed to be more dependent on sales tax (sales tax was increased 2 cents.
Things went fine for about six years until 2001. The state experienced a recession, which caused a decline in state revenues. The state froze per pupil funding in 2003 and 2004 because of this decline, even though there was a drop in the number of pupils funded.
Another factor influencing the decline of funding of public school districts was the addition of charter schools. The creation of charter schools caused less money available to the existing public school districts. In my opinion, charter schools have created an economic segregation in some public school districts.
The state’s share of public school employees' retirement was frozen in the early 1990s. I have always contended that Gov. Engler knew retirement costs would be rising at a greater rate in the coming decades and did not want the state’s share of retirement costs to increase. During Engler’s administration, money was borrowed from the retirement system and eventually it was repaid years later without any interest.
Our current Legislature decided to take more funding away in the last two years. The threat of reduction of payment for kindergarteners actually causes districts to hire more teachers and create more classrooms without additional funding.
Senate Bill 1040 is more of an attempt by members of Legislature to penalize school employees. I do agree that there needs to be a change to the public school employees retirement going forward. I don’t think it’s fair to increase taxes on pensions in order to fund tax breaks to businesses.
I hope the Legislature makes the same changes to their pensions. Their benefits far exceed public school employees. My parents always taught me to clean my own room first.
— Allen Winslow, Spring Lake Township