BlogSave Michigan

What happens when you cut funding to local schools? Easy: they can’t pay their bills.

Over the past two weeks, Buena Vista schools, the Flint School District, and Albion High School have had to shut down, cancel classes, or lay off staff and teachers. Even Ann Arbor schools are having trouble and considering cuts to busing:

Parents of Ann Arbor high school children will have to find another way for their ninth- through 12th-graders to get to school come fall, and students interested in taking a seventh-hour course could have to pay up to $500 per semester, based on a budget discussion the Board of Education had Wednesday night.

And it’s no surprise: Republican lawmakers passed and Gov. Snyder signed a budget that cut $1 billion from locals schools while giving a $1.8 billion tax break to large corporations. Although Republicans claim the lower tax burden on businesses will power Michigan’s comeback, small businesses and entrepreneurs say it hasn’t happened:

“It depends on what type of business you are. If you’re a big business or a business with state connections, they are supportive. If not, they could care less. They are about protecting the status quo. I have not heard of any networking programs for small businesses. There is not a lot of available info on starting a small business or getting financing.”

In spite of the fact we’re constitutionally obligated to provide a free public education system, the best Gov. Snyder could do was offer kids a “skills camp.” Within 24 hours, the rightful outrage from local parents and the national media forced them to disown the “skills camp” and release funds to keep Buena Vista kids in school.

Thank goodness, but it should have never come to this.

The onslaught of school closings and budget shortfalls has created the impression that teachers (who were willing to work for free) and administrators are destroying our education system. Suddenly, folks are shocked that cutting $1 billion from local schools would have negative consequences.

But don’t worry: Gov. Snyder and his conservative colleagues are already hard at work on a solution to the very problem they created (with $1 billion in cuts to schools): “Skunk Works.

You’ve probably heard about it. Under the guise of saving money (by cutting $2,000 from per-pupil funding), Gov. Snyder plans to take your tax dollars and turn them into a voucher debit card which you can use at any one of Michigan’s for-profit “value schools.”

Think about it: what better raison d’être for Gov. Snyder’s “value schools” than the recent spate of school funding emergencies? Isn’t it serendipitous? Publicly operated schools are having money problems, and they’ve got a “value schools” plan ready to go!

If you’ve been following the travails of the for-profit charter school cottage industry in Michigan, you know this is cause for concern. Because of the perverse incentives of a market where there is little oversight, guaranteed demand, and the overriding corporate prerogative to meet quarterly projections, Michigan’s for-profit charter school utopia has failed. Simply put, why invest in providing a quality education when you can focus on advertising, count more “heads,” and beat market expectations?

And they don’t. In fact, for-profit charter schools perform worse than public schools:

But facts are silly things, because in Michigan your opinion only matters if you’re incorporated.


  1. Its easy to cut funds toward public schools because that is where most of the people of color send their children Its a simple known fact…

  2. I wonder about the details of Buena Vista, Flint and Albion schools. The push by the Rs to promote charter schools, for-profit schools, vouchers and the recent “Skunk Works” planning is deplorable and I hope residents contact elected officials to oppose the direction the Rs are headed – they are fully deserving of criticism. However regarding Buena Vista, Flint and Albion, it appears there was some less-than-stellar management/leadership in one or more cases. Until details emerge, we shouldn’t use these three schools as prime examples to set public policy. As much as I like to bludgeon the Rs, just because 1/2 of one percent of Michigan’s schools are having significant financial problems doesn’t mean that’s a justification to attack the Rs. They do so much else that deserves reproach!

    • Phil, the glaring examples in the news like Buena Vista are just the tip of the iceberg. Schools all over are cutting back, teachers accept layoffs and salary cuts, music, art, and phys ed are cut, etc. It is death by a thousand cuts, and this year it came to a head for a few schools. Granted, there is surely wasted money in some of these places, but that is true in business also, including those firmly latched onto the government teat through contracts and tax breaks. The businesses just get away with it, because they structure their waste into their agreements ahead of time.

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