Friday, August 26, 2005

Catching up

We are still waiting for the state legislature to decide how much money our schools will get for their operating budgets this year. Meanwhile, the Grand Rapids School District is on the brink of receivership. One of the promises of proposal A was that our property tax funds would be pooled so that all public schools would have a secure source of funding. Humph. There has been an active discussion of school funding issues on This discussion has directed my attention to a bit of history: it seems that in the early 1990's then-governor Engler decided to finance his tax-cut frenzy by taking money from the school pension fund. A judge later ruled this illegal, but not before then fund had been depleted, just in time to miss out on the bull market of the late 90's. Today, contributions to that pension fund is one of the fastest growing expenses for school districts, right up there with health insurance and gasoline.

A lesser known provision of Proposal A was to transfer 100% of the responsibility for funding the teachers pension fund to the local school districts. (Previously their share was 5%.) This is how people like my state senator can say that school districts are "getting much more money than before proposal A" and be technically correct. They get to divest themselves from responsibility from the mess, implying that if school administrators can't make ends meet with "much more money", they must be poor money managers.

This should not be a surprise. Public schools have been a battle ground for the reckless right wing. Indeed, their ultimate goal seems to be the end of the public school system and the ascendancy of religious education in its place. Because the American public rejects this ultimate goal, they must work towards it by engineering crisises like our current situation. If it took 10 years for policies of the early '90s to yield results, that's okay! Killing public schools is a long term goal.

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