Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

April 21, 2013

Forum: Actions speak louder than words

Actions speak louder than words, and we show what we value by how we invest our resources. The actions of our Legislature and governor demonstrate a willingness to sacrifice the education of our youngest citizens and dramatically weaken the viability of K-12 public education.

The education budgets proposed by the governor, the State Senate and House all continue to slash K-12 school funding. Those budget proposals cut funding to Traverse City Area Public Schools by $30, $41 and $51 per student, respectively.

The cuts are particularly daunting in light of the dramatic cuts schools have implemented over the past five years. TCAPS has responsibly reduced costs during the decade-long economic recession.

TCAPS cut more than $11.4 million since 2008, or $1,104 per student, during a period of stable enrollment. The district reduced salary and benefit costs 17 percent in the last three years alone. Despite these cuts, the district still faces a $1.5 million shortfall this year, which will be compounded by increases in state-imposed retirement costs.

TCAPS’ reserve fund balance will be eliminated by 2016 absent an increase in state funding. We would be in a position of having to file a deficit elimination plan with the state two years from now. Such a filing is the first step to the imposition of a state-mandated Emergency Manager, who would take over operations and decision-making.

The continual funding reductions are starving public education out of meaningful existence. TCAPS and other inequitably low-funded districts suffer the most. TCAPS has acted in a fiscally responsible manner but time is running out.

The real threat of Emergency Manager takeover of high-quality, reputable districts such as TCAPS should sound an alarm throughout our state.

The state School Aid fund is sufficiently robust to pay for an increase in funding for K-12 education, contrary to the claims of our own locally-elected state legislators.

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