Washtenaw school enhancement millage looking unlikely

With almost 63% of precincts reporting, it looks as though the ballot initiative to increase funding for our Washtenaw County schools is going to fail. (Presently, it looks as though 60% of Washtenaw voters voted against the measure.) Had the 5 year, 2 mill tax passed, we would have raised on the order of $30 million for our schools. ($2,663,743 of this would have gone to Ypsi public schools, and $11,209,169 would have gone to Ann Arbor’s.)

It’s not surprising to me, given the financial situation here in Michigan, that people would vote not to further raise taxes, but I’d hoped that my neighbors would have seen the a small bump in their taxes as a reasonable trade-off for better schools, more capable of turning out the kinds of young professionals we’re going to need if we’re ever going fix what ails our state. (It was estimated that the millage would cost the owner of a home worth $100,000 an additional $200 per year in taxes.)

[A great background article on local school funding, and this proposed millage can be found at The Ann Arbor Chronicle.]

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47 Comments

  1. ypsilistener
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    Mark,

    I’m astonished that you would choose to write about this critical issue after the fact. I figured you just wanted to stay out of it, given the way past school discussions on your blog had gone, but to write about it now is offensive.

    Whereyabeen??

  2. fedupwithMI
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    Midwesterners have never been known for being able to plan ahead.
    This is not surprising.

  3. Peter Larson
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Can you blame them? Washtenaw property taxes are already ridiculous. I am most certainly pro-school, but I wasn’t looking forward to paying an extra $400 a year in property tax for anything. Renters probably don’t care, but property owners, especially poor ones, get worried about having to pay tax when the taxes are too high to begin with.

    Regardless, had I voted, I would have voted for it.

  4. Posted November 4, 2009 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    I’m with ypsilistener. A day late and a dollar short, I believe the saying goes.

  5. Steph's Dad
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    Yeah, let’s all blame Mark. Clearly a post on his blog would have changed the outcome. And, if we blame him, we don’t have to acknowledge the fact that we didn’t adequately make our case to the public. I like this.

  6. EOS
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    It’s about time taxpayers stopped feeding the monster of more and more government. No to an 11% increase for schools, No to exorbitant police costs, and No to future county-wide AATA funding. And on the National level, No to socialized medicine that brings increased costs along with its reduction in services and personal options for the majority. No to taxpayer funded abortions and No to providing free medical treatment for illegal immigrants.

    Yes for more limited government and more individual responsibility. Politicians who don’t listen and take heed will be targeted for replacement next.

  7. Money Trail
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    EOS…sometimes I wish that there was a “virtual douche” that I could use to wash away all of your vile stink…fresh & clean like a spring morning.

  8. kjc
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    hehe. what’s wrong, money trail, got something against patriots?

  9. Kim
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    I like how Republicans refer to public schools as “government schools”, and imply that they only exist to indoctrinate students to Socialism.

  10. LT
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    So, what happens now? Will there be further cuts at the schools? Will people lose their jobs?

  11. roots
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    Individual responsibility? How does this connect to public schools?

    I’m fairly certain that my single mother, a woman with kids and a career, would have found it impossible to home-school three children in addition to her full-time professional duties.

    I guess I don’t follow the argument, EOS.

  12. News Reader
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    From A2.com:

    In the city of Saline, 61.4 percent of voters cast no votes.
    In the city of Ypsilanti, 52.4 percent of voters said no.
    In the city of Milan, 71.8 percent of voters rejected the millage.
    In the city of Chelsea, 50.9 percent of voters rejected the proposal.
    In Ypsilanti Township, 66.5 percent of voters cast no votes.
    In Pittsfield Township, 54.7 percent of voters said no.

    http://www.annarbor.com/news/ann-arbor-voters-cant-provide-enough-margin-to-get-countywide-schools-enhancement-millage-passed/

  13. Emma
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    I don’t know of anyone who is forced to have children but, everyone is forced to pay taxes to educate them and provide the poorest with health care. The property taxes are too high already. If you cannot afford children you should not have them. That is being individually responsible.

  14. Scott K
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Well said EOS….I voted against because my kids go to a charter school and they wouldn’t have received a benefit from it.

  15. tommy
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    This millage proposal was doomed from the beginning. The timing was terrible to start with. Wouldn’t have mattered what the money was for, asking people around here to pony up more taxes for anything would not pass. Now that schools will have to make do with less money – probably less money for a long time – we’ll see how things play out. My hope is that this new reality will force all school systems to think strategically long term as opposed to year-by-year. Consolidation of services – maybe. Privatize some things that may make sense such as custodial and grounds services – perhaps. Dramatically increasing participation fees for all sports or using a self-funded model – why not. Halving the number of Administrators – absolutely. My point is that classroom instruction should be the last option.

    For those who think that paying someone 80K who has a Master’s Degree or two, has been working for 20+ years, and who – for the most part – has dedicated their lives to a noble profession that makes a goddamn difference in the lives of our children is out of line with reality, – fuck off!

    If you’re upset with the salary of a teacher, why stop there? Firefighters (who sit on their ass most of the time, right), cops, doctors and nurses (your premiums help pay their salaries after all) should all ‘take a hit’, right? I for one don’t subsribe to the race to the bottom mentality. Privatize it all – that will solve all of our problems! Let the free market dictate!

  16. Posted November 4, 2009 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    What happens next? More cuts and mid-year layoffs of teachers, probably. The chronic problem is much larger than the millage could permanently fix, but the hope was that the millage would build a bridge to whatever fix our dysfunctional state legislature ultimately comes up with to the chronic problem of our structural budget deficit. But since expected revenue already budgeted for this school year is already substantially lower than expected, it is probably too optimistic to think the nitwits in Lansing will do anything in time to fix any actual problem facing our schools this year.

    Blaming Mark? Hardly. Those to blame are those that voted against it. Not quite sure how the concept of blame came from my comment, but it’s clear to me that the Monday morning quarterbacking (or Wednesday morning quarterbacking) of this is pointless. Time to move on and hope that whatever next round of impending cuts won’t be too deep.

  17. Linda
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Read that Chronicle piece Mark linked to, and then check out this article on AnnArbor.com.

    http://www.annarbor.com/news/ann-arbor-panhandler-gemini-dream/

    It’s not on the same subject, but I think the difference between the two illustrates the sorry state of professional journalism at AnnArbor.com.

  18. Posted November 4, 2009 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    I don’t normally do this but I voted against it. The local ISD is to disorganized and out of touch to handle the money IMHO. I also believe strongly that ALL of the districts should’ve set up pay freezes across the board (including admins) 8 years ago. If they had done this AND been able to carry the money over, the schools would be able to weather this trouble a little better. I was prepared to do this, but the district I worked for had other ideas (like giving large raises to teachers and admins and nothing for support staff). Now I’m unemployed and the teachers have to fix their own computer issues.

    And for the record, charter schools are private schools in sheep’s clothing. They can ask their students parents for more money before they ask me for it and I tell them no.

  19. fedup2
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    What happpens next?
    Send your kids to EOS’s place to their eedicasun.

  20. Posted November 4, 2009 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Emma, there’s a very simple reason everyone, including childless people, pay for schools: an educated population is in everyone’s best interest.

  21. Glen S.
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    I continue to be amused by all the posters on this blog, and on other sites, who argue that because of the poor economy — and because many people in the private sector are losing jobs and taking pay cuts — the “answer” is to outsource, privatize, and cut salaries and/or benefits to teachers, fire fighters, police officers and other public employees.

    In many communities (especially Ypsilanti) modestly well-compensated public employees, including teachers, and government and university employees, provide a big part of the foundation of middle-class homeowners and taxpayers that support local businesses and stable neighborhoods.

    If those who wish to extract their pound of flesh are successful — and ongoing cuts at the state and local level begin to erode salaries and benefits for these workers — it is hard for me to see how this is good for either our community or the local economy.

    After all, shifting increasingly larger segments of our workforce from being “middle class” to being … “the new poor?” will simply mean fewer customers for local businesses, and reduced tax revenue to pay for essential services.

    I never thought I’d agree with “fedupwithMI” above, but if people don’t understand that the the long-term goal should be to RAISE everyone’s quality of life — rather than engaging in a short-sighted “race to the bottom” in terms of wages, benefits and working conditions — then perhaps he (she?) is right in suggesting that at least many midwesterners are incapable of planning ahead.

  22. Brackinald Achery
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    If you don’t have the money, you don’t have the money.

  23. Chris
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    We don’t value education in Michigan. It’s that simple.

  24. kjc
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Jo Comerford, executive director of the National Priorities Project, was on DemNow recently. In terms of cash strapped states who’ve seen a loss of federal funding, here’s an interesting fact.

    “One of the figures that we’re looking at now is that the combined total budgets of states, of the forty-eight states projected to be in deficit for 2010, is $689 billion. And when you compare that to our nation’s military budget for 2010—it’s $704 billion—it’s striking that the total state budgets, forty-eight states, is less than our nation’s military expenditures.”

    Guess we have the money for some things.

  25. Oliva
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Encouraging (well, somewhat heartening) to see that Ypsilanti voters came in second to Chelsea in fewest no votes. We tried! (Oh, the 71.8 % no-voters in Milan, you shoot yourself in the belly, foot, groin!) And isn’t it true that Ypsi’s got the highest property taxes in the county–and yet? But saying “we tried” isn’t good enough, obviously. (So Mark’s fault?! Mamma mia.) Sad but not surprising that the No campaign was funded by greedy self-interest of the chamber of commerce variety, when better vision would have said that money itself could have been put to a useful purpose, for us all–for those with children and those who just happen to share the world with them.

  26. Oliva
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    “The currency of today’s economy is knowledge.” –President Obama, 4 Nov. 2009

    The whole speech is worth hearing again or reading the transcript. Smart comments absolutely fitting to this discussion–for those who think that because they don’t have children they shouldn’t be concerned with the nation’s education system (i.e., how to cut off your own access to oxygen while cutting off others’).

    “America’s national mission . . . improving our schools.”

    Ouch.

  27. Brackinald Achery
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Guess we have the money for some things.

    Better start writing the Democrats in charge of our federal government to completely defund the United States military and send us our 1/50th share of the savings.

  28. kjc
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    complete defunding of the military is a red herring. but i’ll bet the military industrial complex would appreciate that spin. they love our tax dollars.

  29. Brackinald Achery
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Okay, how about for starters, write the Democrats in charge of our federal government to pull all of our troops out of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. Then they can give our teachers 1/50th of those savings.

  30. kjc
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    i’ll go for that.

  31. EOS
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    Educating our children properly requires significantly more effort than throwing money at the public school system. Parents don’t fulfill their responsibilities by merely enrolling their kids in the local school district. There are a number of studies that show absolutely no correlation between increased school funding and improved educational outcomes. The only variable that shows consistent correlation is parental involvement. If you are really concerned about your child’s intellectual development, then spend more time with them engaged in learning activities. Read and discuss books together. Set an example by reading the paper, magazines, and books on a regular basis. Make family trips to the free public library. Provide them with regular opportunities to express themselves in written form. Investigate the myriad of free museums, science centers, musical and theatrical events and take advantage of the various cultural activities in our communities. Raise the expectations that you have for your children. Expect that they consistently engage in acts of volunteerism. But please, don’t vote yes on a millage increase and then set back and feel sanctimonious. The two millages in the township would have raised my taxes by 20% had they both passed. If taxes continue to rise, I’ll have to get a second job to pay my mortgage and other expenses, as would many other families who are barely making it, and even then, jobs are scarce and hard to come by. The village may contribute to raising your children, but that doesn’t alter the fact that you are primarily responsible. Only a small fraction of education occurs within the school setting.

  32. Posted November 4, 2009 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry for ruining the schools by not posting something about the millage prior to the election. I deserve to be publicly flogged.

  33. James Madison
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    Not only is MarkMaynard.com to blame for the defeat of this school funding measure, he’s also to blame for global warming! If he’d posted about that problem a couple of centuries ago, all the world would have been well informed in a timely way and very different choices would have been made. His irresponsibility has no limit!

  34. roots
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    I agree with EOS regarding the importance of parental involvement. That comes first and it’s the most important ingredient.

    *sigh*

    I also agree with Emma’s snotty response about people not being “forced to have children.” What’s funny to me about that is the correlation between education and reproduction.

    This is a few years old now, but I bet it still applies: “A women’s educational level is the best predictor of how many children she will have, according to a new study from the National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study, based on an analysis of 1994 birth certificates, found a direct relationship between years of education and birth rates, with the highest birth rates among women with the lowest educational attainment” (via cdc.gov).

    Seems to me we’d better worry about educating everyone!

  35. Posted November 5, 2009 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    EOS, you are right (I never thought I’d start a comment with those words!) that there is more to education than money, and that parental responsibility is an issue. You mention that, “There are a number of studies that show absolutely no correlation between increased school funding and improved educational outcomes,” and I accept that at a certain level of funding, the returns (improved educational outcomes) per additional dollar diminish to effectively nothing. Therefore, I accept that, at a certain level of funding, the decline of educational outcomes per less dollar spent is effectively nothing. But that only works at a certain level of funding.

    It’s similar to arguments by “conservatives” who misuse the Laffer Curve to argue that lower tax rates can always be revenue-neutral or positive. Just because it’s true at a certain point (and I agree that it probably is), doesn’t mean that it is true at ALL points.

  36. Peter Larson
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    But don’t free libraries, museums and cultural events all imply socialist taxpayer funding?

  37. ypsilistener
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Do I think Mark is to blame for the failure of the millage? Hardly!

    Mark appears to be offering an opinion on the millage. He also seems disappointed that his neighbors didn’t agree with his assumed support of it. I’m simply puzzled that these words were not posted in a more timely manner, when his neighbors just might have been curious enough about his position to engage in the debate.

    Those who read this blog regularly know that big issues like this have typically been put out there well in advance, and debated to death. This particular post did not follow precedent, and I still don’t understand the purpose of bringing it up after the fact.

    That said, even though the election is over, there will still be plenty of work for the community to do. It would be great if the ideas generated on blogs made their way to the public meetings, and beyond.

  38. Scott K
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    I’m curious about something with the study that was done that roots mentions. With all the additional access there is now to higher education than there was even 10 years ago, such as online schools, I would assume there are more bachelors degrees and more Masters than ever before. So does that mean that as women earn more education, will the birth rate decrease? Or does the study still stand true that less educated have more children, even though those “less educated” now have higher degrees?

  39. kjc
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    the idea that access to higher education has increased seems dubious. from December 2008:

    “The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education says college tuition and fees have increased by 439 percent since 1982. The cost of attending a four-year public university now amounts to 28 percent of the median family income, while a four-year private university would account for 76 percent. The Center’s president, Patrick Callan, said, “If we go on this way for another twenty-five years, we won’t have an affordable system of higher education.”

  40. Oliva
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    I also found some commendable points in EOS’s post. The parental involvement idea is key, but what to do when public figures whose parenthood is prominent are so woefully inadequate as teachers and role models? Take that breezy McCain running mate. But then it’s confusing because screwy and dangerous Rep. Bachmann has a son who joined AmeriCorps. One case doesn’t make a trend, but it would be interesting to learn if his school was working double or triple time to undo the screwiness at home. How to push clear thinking and a love of knowledge when your whole operation rests on Know-Nothingness?

    I’ve seen home schooling work well once or twice. In one case the family lived way out in the country in NC, and the father was a professor of higher education, and the mother spent way more than full-time work hours preparing for and doing the home schooling. And she took advantage of every public offering, including the university not so far away, in her schooling–also many arts and crafts and sports and things, all on a regular basis, with consistency and follow-through. I can’t imagine many people being able to summon the resources, intelligence, energy, and all the other parts needed to do an adequate job day in and day out. Humans are social animals, and learning in groups makes good sense.

  41. Andy C
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    We’re gonna need more prisons to house all these unedumacated kids when they grow up and can’t get a job. That’s tax money too. Maybe we should instate the death penalty for stealing and drug possession. That would save money.

    Also maybe there needs to be a tax increase for families with more than two kids, rather than a tax break. A friend of mine suggested that, I agree.

  42. Stephen
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Every family should be given the opportunity to choose their two favorite children to keep. The surplus offspring will be raised by the military industrial complex.

  43. dragon
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    I agree w/Andy, tax the breeders.
    Not so sure on ‘we should instate the death penalty for stealing and drug possession’.

    –At 678, California has the nation’s largest death row population, yet the state has not executed anyone in four years.

    But it spends more than $130 million a year on its capital punishment system—housing and prosecuting inmates and coping with an appellate system that has kept some convicted killers waiting for an execution date since the late 1970s.

    This is according to a new report that concludes that states are wasting millions on an inefficient death penalty system, diverting scarce funds from other anti-crime and law enforcement programs.

    “Thirty-five states still retain the death penalty, but fewer and fewer executions are taking place every year,” said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. “But the overall death row population has remained relatively steady. At a time of budget shortfalls nationwide, the death penalty is turning into an expensive form of life without parole.”

  44. Andy C
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    My point being… get to kids early, socialize and educate them properly, and they won’t end up in the jails. Invest now or pay later. Pay later seems to always be the choice here in the States.

  45. Joe
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Trusty, It’s stupid to blame Mark for not passing the millage. Maybe you should have worked to get it passed instead of sitting around complaining. Mark sends his daughter to private school and still supported the millage. The money wouldn’t even be used for his child BUT HE STILL SUPPORTED IT! This town could use ten more Mark Maynards and a few less Trusty Ghettos.

  46. Scott K
    Posted November 6, 2009 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    kjc: I didn’t say access to public or private universities in the traditional bricks and mortar manner. They have greater access to all the online schools and degrees. There is good and bad to it. So many people getting bachelors, even though they may not be of equal quality, waters down the significance of one. Then, in order to get an advantage over your competition in the job market you need to go the next step up to Masters….then the # of say M.B.A.’s increase so the next step is PhD….the good part is that more people are educated…but those that aren’t are the rich get richer and poor get poorer syndrome….

  47. Left Cross
    Posted November 7, 2009 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    EOS said:
    “Yes for more limited government and more individual responsibility. Politicians who don’t listen and take heed will be targeted for replacement next.”

    OK. I’ll take that as a start of a proposal, but it needs to be hashed out a bit more. It’s not clear enough. Limited government means what?
    Whose individual responsibility, and in what matters?

    I am, in fact, in agreement with the words themselves, but you need to make yourself clear on what those concepts mean for this proposal.

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