Sunday, August 10, 2008

$13 Billion is not enough?

The Eccentric roared about “unfunded mandates” in this editorial:

Eccentric: Good ideas merit adequate funding (08/10/08)

Based on the language, I’ve got to wonder which education official was the ghostwriter.

The editorial suggests that any requirements the state places on schools should be considered an unfunded mandate. What they fail to point out is that the state provides over one-third of the state budget – some $13 billion dollars – to schools. Are these requirements really unfunded?

The editorial takes an unsubstantiated swipe at the migration to all-day kindergarten as another example of an unfunded mandate. What they fail to point out is that schools already receive the full state grant per pupil for kindergarten students, while only providing a half-day of service. Unfunded mandate?

The editorial claims these mandates come “at a time when state aid already has fallen behind increased costs.” They fail to point out that schools are responsible for managing their own budgets, and allow employee costs to balloon out of control.

If the Eccentric does not believe schools get enough money, then exactly how much does the Eccentric think schools should get? How much should it increase each year? Articles like this only further the notion that no amount of money is ever enough.

I’ve pasted the article below in case the link doesn’t work.


Good ideas merit adequate funding
August 7, 2008

State officials come up with a great idea - so great, they figure every school district in the state should implement it. Do it or else, they say - and, by the way, don't bother asking us for any financial help in paying for it.

The resultant dilemma is called an unfunded mandate.

It's happened time and again, so no one should be surprised that the state Legislature has taken up an all-day kindergarten program that could cost districts plenty.

In her state of the state message, Gov. Jennifer Granholm called it a "simple step" that would make a difference. But simple by whose definition?

While many districts in the area are moving toward that goal, still others know that the mandate will require more space and more teachers at a time when state aid already has fallen behind increased costs.

The problem of unfunded mandates doesn't stop there.

Recently, the state Court of Appeals ruled that the governor and Legislature violated the Headlee Amendment by requiring school districts to compile data on student progress without reimbursing them for the cost.

The issue could be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

"The (state) constitution is very specific" on requiring mandates be funded, Michael Adamczyk said of the ruling. The assistant superintendent for business in the Troy district is also president-elect of the Michigan School Business Officials group.

The frustrating part, he said, is that even though the state has lost the argument in the past, it still puts up a fight.

For some districts with current software, computers take the brunt of the work. But other districts, Adamczyk said, have to either buy new software or update what they currently have.

Districts "don't argue the merits" of gathering data, he added.

Nevertheless, time is money, whether it be in gathering data or fighting a lawsuit.

It not only makes sense to fund mandates, it's the law.


Jason Gillman said...

In this case, the money should not be the issue at hand for those who oppose a full day for kindergarten.

The soft squishy side of me may be showing, but I personally feel kindergarten is a transitive time, in a child's life when he/she begins socially acclimating to large numbers of other children. The separation from the parents or primary caregivers for extended periods might provide enough discomfort, that any gains in education could be overcome by the distraction of that discomfort.

As for the funding? It drives home the point that there will never be enough money for some. If funding were somehow magically to increase to the writer's "full day" status, reverting back to a half day (if the plan showed to be a failure) wouldn't necessarily result in reduced costs.

WCTaxpayers said...

Is everyone missing the point? We are not arguing funding here, we are arguing the State Constitution. Yes it is the State's obligation to pay for what it mandates. Making exceptions or looking the other way defeats the purpose of the language.

This does not just apply to education . It applies to all units of local government. Every time we allow them to suspend the constitution we jeopardies the whole constitution. These people can not often be trusted.

Rose Bogaert, Chair
Wayne County Taxpayers Association.

bill milligan said...

I agree this appears to be a Constitutional question, but I must point out a contradiction I see in Mike's viewpoint.

A couple of weeks ago, he lamented (rather loudly) about how much money due process cost vis-a-vis getting rid of a tenured teacher. Now districts are being told they must provide data (which nobody is questioning the merits of) but not expect any fiscal help in doing so.

Sorry, to me those two viewpoints are contradictory, Mike.

bill milligan said...

I should have added to the above that Mike has no problem with districts spending the extra dough to churn numerical data out but he has a big problem with districts spending money to allow its human employees due process.

Nice ;)

Liza said...

Major real-world distinction Bill Mill:

“The extra dough to churn numerical data” serves students, not molly-coddled "grown-ups".

Using public tax dollars to fund due process for those deadbeats who aren’t held accountable – to even minimal job performance standards – serves those deadbeats & their dues-collecting agency (which strives mightily to uphold a self-serving system that battles student achievement every step of the way).

Fund your own due process pal, and keep the public's money in the public's classrooms, churning accountability stat's every step of the way.

bill milligan said...

Er, we do fund our own due process. It's called union dues.

But your word choice speaks volumes about your beliefs. Maybe we could ground up the malcontents into pet food or something?

Liza said...

A little Prozac goes a long way, Bill.

bill milligan said...

So if I take some Prozac...I'll start using word choices like "deadbeats" when referring to teachers? No thanks. I'll stick with my beer and the occasional glass of merlot ;)

Hey, Mike is already on record that a vast majority of teachers are stellar. Couple that with the $13 billion and I'm sure you and Mike could agree that there's enough to fund BOTH this number-crunching thingy and due process for the few teachers that need a fair hearing when accused of something.

See? We can all agree. And we've reached this hand-holding only 8 posts in this time. :)

Anonymous said...

WoW! Deadbeats, Prozac, and pet food; Interesting and disturbing text.

You all missed a few good points.

First: The article did take a little bit of an unfounded swipe at all day kindergarden kind of, sort of.

The article actually said that it would cost districts more money when implemented and it will. It will cost more in hiring more teachers and building more classrooms. It's a simple situation. We will need more resources of human and physical capital than we currently have.

Just a fact here and some explaination, not a "swipe". :-)

Second: Mr. Reno is also right on that we already pay full Foundation Grant for every half day student. But Mike sweety, did it merit that rant in the Eccentric? We all know this. But we need so much more to go on than the "it wouldn't hurt" reason to push hard for the all day implementation. How about some of that "unfunded" data? Will that convince me? :-)

I actually like the all day idea but I am concerned about the classrooms we will have to add/build and the teachers we will have to transfer/hire. They are'nt free and I don't want any more portables in the district. EVER! Nor will I accept larger class sizes in order to implement it. Tough parameters are'nt they?

Third: What about Rose's comment and the court rulings mentioned in the original article?

Someone please explain to me why the violation of the State Constitution is EVER acceptable. Duh!

Please explain why the little swipe is such a big deal when compared to the number of law suits filed over the years just to get the state to fund things already required by law. Duh^2!

Those law suits cost me and you, the tax payers, and they only benefit the lawyers. Talk about wasted money that NEVER goes into a classroom. Duh^3!

There are many undisputible facts out here. Here are a few.

1) Wages and benefits are growing faster than revenue.

2) The current step system drives number 1.

3) Increasing benefit costs drive number 1.

These are cold gray Monday morning facts. No one has to like them nor accept them. They just are what they are. Facts.

So what to do? From some posts here I ask the following.

Could it be that the Constitution, due process, and contracts just get in the way? Would a dictator help?

Sorry folks but it won't be easy to get any reasonable contracts EVER with this stuff. Especially when the rhetoric is so insulting and inflammatory. From ALL of you.

It is just making everything more difficult.

P.S. Read the Eccentric piece today that was written for the Macinac Center. It is a great piece about fixing things and NOT expecting the politicians to do it for us.

So as Tigger would say. TTFN.

Mike Adamczyk said...