Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Southfield Eccentric ran a piece today by the editor of the Troy Eccentric. It can be found here:

Southfield Eccentric: We need some storm chasers to settle the mess in Lansing (04/22/07)

Here are the first few paragraphs:

While all of southeast Michigan has entered into "tornado season," which begins this month,a real hailstorm is about to strike some parts of the our community.

Forget being issued a storm "watch," school districts throughout the state have been issued a dire "warning" of substantial cuts in state funding. Some figure the cuts could amount to well over $100 per student. Multiply that by the number of students in your home district, and you can see officials there are facing an F-4 crisis.

The problem is that the district, like its peers elsewhere in the state, has already spent that money. This is April; the next school budget begins in July. And that's not even considering what will happen during the 2007-08 budget year.

The financial warning is accompanied by a funnel cloud of confusion, with high winds emanating from Lansing. The yearly uncertainty that school officials face over funding is heightened now by the collision of two cold fronts, known as the two bodies of the state Legislature.

The latter part of this editorial is right on, but the inflammatory rhetoric quoted above serves as an example of why things can't solved in the state.

To follow this analogy of "storm chasing", we should also ask the question of what responsibilities the victims of tornadoes have when they ignore warnings of the impending storm.

Schools were issued their "warnings" last November when it was clear there was a HUGE shortfall in the school aid fund. In fact -- guided by their various legislative advisors -- many school officials believed ALL of the state funding increase of $220 was going to be rescinded for this year.

How many took action?

The governor came back in January proposing no cut, but anyone who follows this knows that her proposal was just that -- a proposal. No guarantees.

But is was that PROPOSAL that school officials decided to follow, despite the fact that there was still a shortfall and that the governor's proposal was predicated on an immediately unpopular -- and unlikely -- tax increase. Plus, the state has had to take back money several times over the past several years, so a mid-year proration is not unprecidented.

So, to claim that the treat of a cut coming in April is a surprise is completely misleading.

Painful, yes, but there was ample time to try to do SOMETHING.

But the bigger problem with this rhetoric is that it attempts to drive an emotional wedge between legislators and their options. Its intent is to force budget cuts in other important state areas, or to encourage tax increases.

Many of these districts that that are complaining loudest of shortfalls are the ones that have done the least to control their budgets. They approve employment contracts they cannot afford and continue outdated business practices that waste money.

This state is facing a major crisis and EVERYONE needs to pull together to fix it -- no exceptions.

==> Mike.


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