Inside and outside of Oakland

The great toilet paper debate: Michigan public education funding

  The partisan debate over public education funding in Michigan has come down to this: There's no money for toilet paper — or textbooks that can be used as a substitute.
  So says Michigan state Rep. Tim Greimel, an Auburn Hills Democrat and minority party leader in the state House. Greimel says funding cuts by the Republican-controlled Legislature are so severe that the school district in Pontiac, Mich., can't afford toilet paper or the textbooks to use in its place.
  "It might be funny if it weren't true," Greimel said in a Friday email.

Greimel says budget cuts has cost the Pontiac school district $2.4 million and resulted in the layoffs of 95 employees, including 42 teachers.
  House Republicans dispute his math and his claims.
  Both may have a point.
  Michigan funding for public education has been essentially flat for several years.
  An analysis by the Senate Fiscal Agency pegs total public school funding at $12.9 billion this year, up from $12.7 billion last year.
  But there are many factors affecting public school funding because there are many sources of revenue that fund Michigan schools.
  Pontiac schools faces a dual problem of declining property values and the taxes that, in part, fund public schools, and less per pupil funding from the state because of declining enrollment.
  The legislative debate is likely to continue and heat up this year.
  Greimel's claims follow Republican Gov. Rick Snyder's State of the State address Jan. 16 and come before Snyder's budget message to the Legislature at 11 a.m. Feb. 7.
  Snyder plans to make changes to the public school system a priority again this year.
  Efforts to expand the state's Education Achievement Authority before the legislative session ended at the end of December failed when lawmakers couldn't pass House Bill 6004.
  Snyder has been criticized by Democrats for taking money from public education, middle class and senior citizens to reward corporate special interests — criticisms that likely to continue this year.
  Snyder, now in his third year of a four-year term, has advocated performance-based schools, and expansion of privately run charter schools, and that state per pupil funding should follow the student where they wish to go, rather than being exclusively tied to a school district based on residency.
  That's something that scares most public school districts, when it comes to funding.

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