Blogging for Michigan is reporting that the Michigan House voted to cut spending on K-12 education by 3.5%, which is .4% less than what Governor Rick Snyder was looking for. The measure passed 57 to 53, with six Republicans choosing to vote with the Democrats, all of whom voted against the legislation. I was going to praise these courageous Republicans for taking a stand, but then I realized that party leaders allowed them to vote “no” on this one in order to save their seats come reelection time. Still, it’s good to see Republicans crossing the line. The six who did so were Hugh Crawford, Kurt Heise, Holly Hughes, Andrea LaFontaine, Pat Somerville, and Dale Zorn. This vote, according to Blogging for Michigan, would mean $218 less per student next year. (Snyder had asked for a $300 reduction per pupil.)
According to the Detroit Free Press, the budget passed in the House would also decrease state aid to Michigan’s public universities by a whopping 22%. And, guess what? That’s not all. They also tacked on an additional 5% cut for those universities extending domestic partner benefits to their employees. Here’s a clip:
…Added to the education bill was a provision that would penalize universities an additional 5% of their state aid if they allow health benefits for employees and a domestic partner or other adult who is not a spouse in the household.
The penalty was proposed by Rep. David Agema, R-Grandville, who said universities that currently allow benefits for same sex partners or unmarried opposite sex partners go against the state constitution and promote immoral behavior. Agema said the penalty on universities could add $60 million for K-12 schools. It’s not known how either Snyder or the Senate would react to the provision….
To add insult to injury, Rep. Al Pscholka (R-Stevensville) said that the Democrats who opposed the legislation were guilty of underestimating Michigan’s teachers. “Let’s please give our educators a little more credit for creativity to be able to handle this,” said Pscholka… How’s that for doublespeak?
Just to remind everyone, at the same time this is happening, Governor Snyder is proposing a $1.7 billion cut in business taxes. And, as we’ve discussed here on other occasions, he’s calling for an increase in spending on corrections, in spite of Michigan’s dropping prison population.
This, I’m hoping, will be the undoing of the Republican party in Michigan. This is an incredible, mean-spirited overreach intended to break the public school system, and thereby the teacher’s union, and it’s not going to go unnoticed by the voters of Michigan whose kids attend public schools. As class sizes rise, and as friends and family members who are teachers lose their jobs, people will begin to see this for what it is. This is about weakening the working class and restricting their access to information. These are not the steps taken by a government that wants people to better themselves and achieve more than their parents did. This is about creating a permanent underclass to provide cheap labor.
update: According to the press release issued by Reps. Jeff Irwin and David Rutledge (copied below) the numbers above may be a bit off. Here’s what they have to say:
Budget plan puts Michigan’s economic recovery, future at risk
LANSING – State Representatives Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) and David Rutledge (D-Ypsilanti) today blasted House Republicans for passing a destructive education budget plan that slashes $1.1 billion in K-12 funding and will devastate Michigan’s ability to prepare our children and students to compete for 21st century jobs. Under the plan, which now heads to the Senate, community colleges and state universities will be cut by about 15 percent and Michigan’s K-12 schools will see cuts of at least $426 per student with some school districts being hit with cuts as large as $1,558 per student.
“Republicans hastily approved a budget plan for Michigan that will mean huge cuts for schools and higher education,” Irwin said. “This comes just a day after they approved a budget that eliminates or drastically reduces programs like Meals on Wheels, clothing allowances for indigent children, libraries, medication for the mentally ill, economic development initiatives and job training programs. House Republicans passed these budgets, with those cuts and many more, while raising taxes on seniors, low-income workers, those investing in urban renewal or historic preservation and even people who give charitable contributions to food banks and homeless shelters. At a time when our citizens are calling for shared sacrifice, there is plenty of sacrifice, but precious little sharing.”
The plan Republicans passed today cuts $1.1 billion from K-12 funding and slashes community colleges and state universities’ funding by about 15 percent. According to the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency, if the budget for Fiscal Year 2012 were frozen at current spending levels – meaning no further cuts to school funding – there would be a surplus of $650 million in the School Aid Fund. Instead, House Republicans’ plan raids the School Aid Fund in order to give corporations a massive tax break.
House Republicans passed these deep education cuts today despite clear opposition by tens of thousands of residents over the past few months who spoke out in support of our schools at town hall meetings and rallies across the state. In a recent survey, 53 percent of residents said education funding should be the last place lawmakers cut, according to Michigan State University’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research.
“This plan is unconscionable,” Rutledge said. “Michigan cannot afford to slash public education like this, without seriously compromising our future. Schools have been cut to the bone, and beyond, and communities are already feeling the effects. These deep cuts could devastate already struggling districts, and to make them at a time when the School Aid Fund is running a surplus is shameful.”