In 2007, we saw the bottom drop out of the School Aid Fund as sales tax collections tanked. In 2008, the Great Recession would have decimated K-12 funding had it not been for Federal stimulus money. In the years since, we have seen disorder on Wall Street threaten our schools by pushing the costs of the state school retirement system through the roof. And through all this, spending on K-12 education didn’t even keep up with the growth in the state economy – in good times or bad.
On Tuesday, the state’s top economists informed us that state tax revenues would be lower than expected. Sales tax revenues, the biggest contributor to school aid, are slowing, and the corporate income tax will be smaller than the rebates handed out to large businesses. This is happening even though the state economy is growing, manufacturing and employment are up, and incomes are up. (The sales tax doesn’t cover services, which is where the growth is, and gas prices are down.) State tax revenues represent the smallest share of the state economy in decades, almost $10 billion below the Headlee limit.
For school aid, the decline worked out to $64 million less than expected for the current budget year, and almost $84 million less than expected for next year. That’s bad news, since the “generous” budget proposals for this election year depended on using leftover balances to help pay for the $60-$120 per pupil increase next year. Now that balance will be a lot smaller, and the proposals now sitting in the Legislature would actually leave the School Aid Fund over $40 million short – so “adjustments” need to be made. You know what that means.
So what will be adjusted downward? We have some candidates. How about the millions earmarked by the House and Senate to “reimburse” private schools for things like background checks, keeping vaccine records, and fire drills? Or maybe the odd little grants to lawmakers’ pet organizations for programs no one asked for? The hole in the general state budget is even larger, so that can’t come to the rescue. What game shall we play today?
It’s past time to get off the roller coaster. For years, we have shoehorned our children’s education into whatever funding bucket we were handed. Not only were our schools not protected from tremors centered far away, but our lawmakers have consistently moved to shrink the size of the bucket through tax policy choices. School funding hasn’t kept up with the state economy in over a decade – even in the bad years.
Instead of letting our schools be at the mercy of what happens on Wall Street, or to gas prices – or overheated campaign promises – we should make sure our schools have what they need to get the job done. We need to commit to providing a quality education for every child in Michigan, and our elected officials need to make that happen. It is well past time.
Use the link at the top right of this email to let Lansing know what you think! No more roller coasters. We need to provide stable and sufficient funding for our public schools!
MI Parents for Schools