John Jarpe: The intention of Proposal APublished 10:39pm Wednesday, April 6, 2011
I was quite pleased when I got the opportunity to write a guest column for the Daily Star. My very first job, when I was 11 years old, was delivering the Star door-to-door in my Eastside neighborhood. I grew up in Niles, and graduated from NHS in 1968. I got a great education in Niles and I can recall some wonderful teachers. When I entered the University of Michigan as a freshman in the fall of ’68, I believe I was as ready for college as anyone else. I want the generation now in school to have all the opportunities I had all those years ago.
School funding was an issue back in those days, just as it is now. Tax dollars went to fund public schools and boards of education had to decide where to spend the money. That much has been true all these years. Even then, with tight budgets, we had those great classroom teachers, and as I said, I was prepared for college.
Changes in school funding came in 1994. Before 1994, the amount of money for schools in Michigan depended a lot on where you lived. If you lived in a school district that had very high property values, or had a big business or industrial tax base, your schools got a considerably larger amount of property tax money. If your district was mainly residential, and did not have lots of upscale homes or big businesses, you had less operating funds. In many cases, there was almost a 3-to-1 difference when you compared the wealthiest and the poorest districts in the state. In order to keep up and fund the schools, boards of education had to ask residents to vote for millage increases that raised property taxes. The local millage vote days were certainly not the “good old days” of school finance. Michigan was one of the highest property tax states in the nation, many schools still struggled financially, and there were “haves” and “have nots” among the districts of the state.
In 1994, we approved Proposal A. Statewide sales taxes reduced property taxes, and we were no longer dependent on locally voted millages. To a large extend, Proposal A worked to keep property taxes in line. There is still a gap between the highest and lowest funded districts, but it is not nearly as great as it was in the millage-dependent days.
However, when we voted for Proposal A in 1994, the understanding was that K-12 schools would be funded by the state sales tax. There was no mention or campaigning about any of the sales tax dollars going to fund universities or community colleges. Right now the Governor’s proposed budget calls for using the School Aid Fund for K-12 districts and higher education. This proposed distribution of funds will hurt K-12 public schools all over the state.
If you agree with me, that the voters in 1994 intended for the School Aid Fund to be used for public K-12 schools, let your state representative, state senator and governor know your feelings. If you disagree and believe all those funds are meant for community colleges, universities and our public schools as well, let them know that, too. They have extremely important decisions to make in the next two months, and they need to hear from the citizens of Michigan.
We want our students as prepared for the next level as any generation has been.
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