Traverse City Record-Eagle

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February 17, 2013

Forum: Fears of school funding discrimination

The Record Eagle recently highlighted proposals from State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, to gradually remedy the current inequitable funding of public K-12 education in Michigan. While I applaud Senator Jones' willingness to stand up and promote a solution to this long-standing problem, I fear that it will suffer the same ill fate of similar efforts to end discrimination in school funding, and die a quick death in our state Legislature as next year's budget is crafted.

The history of discrimination in school funding is one of promises unkept. Proposal A, overwhelmingly approved by Michigan voters in 1994, included the promise to end this discrimination. However, the discrimination has not only persisted, it has been exacerbated over the years.

Many citizens who were students in 1994 now have children of their own who continue to suffer the effects of this discriminatory treatment.

Our own northern Michigan legislators espouse a desire to remedy the inequitable and discriminatory school funding formula, yet years continue to pass with no effective solution. We have recently witnessed speedy and concerted legislative efforts with respect to the passage of a lame-duck Right to Work law, as well as legislative efforts to allow guns in schools and to limit women's access to reproductive health services.

Consider this a plea for legislators to exercise comparable drive and energy to permanently resolve the discrimination in school funding.

There is no better means of improving Michigan's economy than improving the education of our youngest citizens, approximately 40 per cent of whom are living in poverty. Public education is the bedrock of a sustainable economy and democracy, yet we continue to allow students to be treated in an unfairly discriminatory manner with respect to the education they are afforded.

Given the lack of success in obtaining a legislative solution to the discrimination in school funding, it is time for families to turn to the judicial process. This situation is analogous to prior civil rights battles which were resolved only through the courts. Continuing to wait and hope for crumbs from the legislative table is unacceptable and unfair to our kids.

No Michigan appellate court has considered the issue of inequitable school funding since the passage of Proposal A. The Legislature has proven unwilling or incapable of abiding by the promises of Proposal A. Therefore, I believe it is time to seek judicial relief. Our kids deserve it.

About the author: Kelly Hall is president of the Traverse City Area Public Schools Board of Education.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by emailing letters@record-eagle.com. Please include biographical information and a photo.

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