In the shadows of giants
Education is crucial. And not just an average education. I’m talking about the outstanding education this country is capable of providing for every American child from preschool to college graduation.
Beyond health care and access to basic needs, education is the cornerstone on which any robust, modern economy is founded.
So, why are we no longer funding education in Michigan?
On the surface, it seems to be a bipartisan issue. All children need a good education to be successful and most attend public schools. The deep cuts only appear to inconvenience districts and force them to become leaner. It seems as if our society places education very low on its priorities.
The rhetoric from Gov. Rick Snyder about innovation and entrepreneurship sounds like the right direction for Michigan. However, his apparent anti-education budget proposal runs counter to his self-described “nerd” persona and the invaluable importance of education.
If education funding continues on this downward spiral, Michigan will follow.
The “brutal reality”
Based on careful planning, MSU budgeted for a 13 percent cut in funding from the state in its proposed budget for next year. Snyder dealt a 15 percent blow. He also has proposed an estimated $470 cut per pupil to K-12 schools.
Even though the cuts were planned for, MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon described them as a “brutal reality.”
Snyder also has proposed universities limit tuition increases to less than 7 percent or forego state funding. This means universities need to find other ways to raise funds through tuition — students and their parents — as well as donations, grants and cuts.
It’s easy to take funding from universities that are capable of finding money elsewhere; that doesn’t make it right. With this year’s substantial proposed cuts, Snyder has said he will not decrease funding again during his term.
To which I say, “Thanks … I guess.”
I desperately hope he turns education funding around in his next three budget proposals. It’s hard to believe this for one important reason; Snyder is a politician.
Paying for college is a burden on middle-class families. Loans as well as debt pile up and it seems the attitude toward this problem is that a few extra thousands won’t make a difference — but it does to anyone without millions at their disposal.
Unemployment is high. Parents are losing their jobs and students have a harder time finding job opportunities both during and after college. That is, if they even are prepared for college after high school graduation.
According to an article by The Associated Press, a new report shows more than half of Michigan’s high schools will have less than 10 percent of their graduates this spring ready for college.
Youth in revolt
My high school alma mater, Lansing Eastern High School, is a “dropout factory.”
With a 62.16 percent graduation rate the year I left Lansing Eastern High School, according to an article by the Lansing State Journal, the outlook was bleak for many of my classmates with less fortunate circumstances than my own. The one commonality among those students is the amount of money being spent to educate them on the federal, state and local levels. A number that is slipping lower and lower.
Rachel Jackson, 17, an Eastern junior, walked out of school last week to protest with more than 300 other Lansing School District students at the state Capitol for education funding and teachers’ union rights, according to the Lansing State Journal.
Somehow their education was good enough for them to know Snyder was not living up to his “nerd” proclamation. These students rightly feel unsupported — by a government led by a father of three nonetheless.
But Snyder’s children attend a private school in Ann Arbor, according to The Detroit News, so what difference does it make to him?
MSU students also took it upon themselves to confront Snyder in protests at the state Capitol last week and this Thursday against his education funding plans. I cannot overstate the importance of this. Students at any grade level can tell the government they are real people — real angry people — who want to be truly valued in Michigan.
As punishment for skipping school, Jackson said Lansing School District administrators are leaning toward assigning community service instead of suspensions.
One cannot help but wonder if protesting will count toward the hours. After all, participating in democracy is an essential service to the community.
System of a down
Snyder’s theory is the state needs a more unified educational system. Forcing districts to scramble each year and make do with the budgetary scraps they are given is not productive or true to his “message.”
Snyder has run on the theory that children need support from “pre-natal to postgrad” and Michigan needs a better return on its “investment.” Problem is, the state won’t get any return with such diminished investment. Cutting money is not the same as insuring it is used wisely.
The children of this state and nation will be hamstringed by Snyder’s proposed cuts. It is time to reform the education system, not restrict it.
Alanna Thiede, opinion writer