Jim Ward

Education funding changes discussed at forum

December 18, 2009 // 0 Comments

by JUDY REED West Michigan wants changes in the way education is funded. And West Michigan residents weren’t shy about telling that to a panel of legislators and educators on Monday evening, Dec. 7, at an education forum at Cedar Springs High School. On hand to discuss the issues were Senator Mark Jansma (28th District), Representative Tom Pearce (73rd District), Senator Ron Jelinek (21st District), legislative liaison and former representative Mike Pumford, Forest Hills teacher Jim Ward (Political Action Committee chair of the Kent County Education Association), and Dr. Michael Shibler, Superintendent of Rockford Public Schools. Cedar Springs School Superintendent Ron McDermed moderated the forum. School districts across the state took another cut this year of $167 per student, then another $127 per student. “The system is broken, it’s not working, and needs to be fixed,” remarked Shibler. “We’re counting on you folks, who are the grassroots [to make sure it gets changed]. It’s going to take a lot of work.” Shibler said Rockford’s budget is $74 million, and they are cutting $4.8 million. The panel discussed issues such as how Proposal A was intended to work, the disparity in funding across districts, the Headlee Amendment, consolidation of schools and services, federal regulations, taxing services, health insurance premiums, and the difference between when the school must have its budget in and when the state fiscal year starts. “Proposal A worked in a robust economy,” said Pearce. “Returning the state to a robust economy is key. We need to change the formula and enact cost reforms.” Pumford explained that under the Headlee Amendment, the state could not collect more than 9.5 percent of disposable income from taxpayers. “In 2001 we hit that, and then started cutting taxes. It’s now 7.3 percent—that’s $8 billion in tax cuts. In some point in time, they will need to ask you to pay more. Over 50 percent of disposable income was spent on commodities before 1994, and now we spend that on services. We’ve cut too many taxes, period.” The audience heartily applauded Pumford’s remarks. Jelinek commented that the state has reduced all budgets much more than the K-12 budget, including eliminating the arts and libraries budget. “I support the need for strong police and fire, those are necessary services,” […]