Detroit Today

The Future of Finances for Public Schools

Monday, September 8, 2014

Would you pay more in property taxes if it meant stronger schools in your community? Laura Weber-Davis and Nancy Kaffer are joined for a panel discussion by Michelle Cline, Superintendent of Garden City Schools, Glenn Nelson, Treasurer on the Ann Arbor Public School Board, and Craig Thiel, senior research associate with Citizens Research Council.

According to Cline, who leads a struggling Wayne County district, most taxpayers are not aware of the complicated Michigan laws, money added to school funding in recent years by the state was , by law, used to secure pensions, and salaries, and was not given to classroom costs.

While 12 years ago taxpayers paid 3.6% of their income toward K-12 education, Michigan resident are now paying only 2.9% state wide, according to Glenn Nelson. Today’s children have nothing to do with the unfunded liability that politicians created, yet they are paying the price, Nelson claims.

Michelle Cline, Superintendent for Garden City Schools, explains her struggling district has lost $660 per child, yet mandated costs like converting curriculum to common core and even a variety of small expenses such as having epi-pens in every building cost enough to keep districts from making ends meet.

A Romeo School District resident questioned why all the millage dollars are used for things like buses. Michelle explained that schools cannot ask for additional funds for taxpayers for education, but can ask for building and capital expenses and upgrades. Nelson reiterated that operating costs cannot be levied. He feels districts are heavily restrained by the state.

When districts feel the need to ask for additional funding from taxpayers, it is difficult to explain the needs and restrictions to taxpayers. Many district millages did not pass in recent elections. Cline claims there is not a simple answer. The latest political campaigns claim the governor has added millions to education, but is it K-12? She says no. The report Quality Counts says from 2003 to present, math scores decreased to an extent that Michigan ranked 50th in the latest report.