Senators Hopgood, Whitmer, Smith, Hood, Gregory, Young and Johnson, under their constitutional right of protest (Art. 4, Sec. 18), protested against the passage of Senate Bill No. 961.
Senator Hopgood moved that the statement he made during the discussion of the bill be printed as his reasons for voting “no.”
The motion prevailed.
Senator Hopgood’s statement, in which Senators Whitmer, Smith, Hood, Gregory, Young and Johnson concurred in, is as follows:
I rise to speak, and before I get into the rest of my remarks, I do want to commend the subcommittee chair of the school aid subcommittee for his hard work and to the rest of the members for looking at and considering a lot of testimony; a lot of changes and different policy pieces that we worked on over the course of the budget to date.
But here we are in day two of our budget process that not only leaves off where we were yesterday, but it leaves off where we were last year. Looking at the School Aid budget before us, it is quite clear to Michigan families to see that this is the second half of the first two-year budget cycle in Michigan’s history. Despite all the protests and despite all of the outcry from Michigan’s public, it seems that you have learned nothing from the mistakes made in last year’s budget, and nowhere is that more obvious than in the School Aid budget. You once again robbed the blind to fill in the holes you’ve created in the General Fund. Money that was intended to be spent only on our K-12 schools is being diverted away to pay for untested and unproven corporate tax handouts, all while you pat yourselves on the backs and claim you’ve balanced the budget.
What you’ve really done is, once again, show where your values lie, and that’s in putting corporate greed over kids in need. By taking more than $1.5 billion out of the School Aid Fund over the last two years, you have shown that the education of our children—the future of our state—are not as important as ensuring that we line the pockets of the wealthiest out-of-state CEOs. I am sure many of your colleagues in the House will try to claim that this budget is an improvement on last year, as they scramble to convince voters they are pro-education this year. I can assure you that the public will see through that as their schools continue to close and class sizes continue to grow. Make no mistake, this budget you are voting on today is absolutely a cut to education, compounded on top of the massive cut you gave them last year.
Beyond the financial hit you are once again asking our public schools to take, you further muddy the waters of our children’s education by including ill-conceived requirements on our schools in this budget. While offering a computer adaptive test in addition to the MEAP may sound like a leap forward in technology, it’s one that we don’t seem to have thought out totally logistically. Adding yet another test that we don’t even know the merits of, let alone whether any of our schools or students are prepared to maneuver, is a far cry from responsible spending.
Instead of handing over our precious dollars to the private, out-of-state vendor who runs this testing, I wish you would leave the school aid money alone. Yet another painfully obvious flaw in this budget is the fact that you intend to throw money at the Education Achievement System, a program that has yet to produce any tangible policy recommendations, despite repeatedly extending its own deadlines. As much as this Republican administration favors the rhetoric of metrics and dashboards, one would think that a flaw such as this would not be over overlooked. This is yet another example of the double stand and you have imposed on individuals and corporations. If it were our schools themselves extending deadlines you’ve set for them, I dare say you would not be so accommodating.
We owe it to our children and our future to pass a budget that will give them the education they need to be competitive in the 21st century. I am not willing to sacrifice our student’s future and the quality of our education system to pay for yet another tax break for corporations that has no guarantee of creating a single job.
For those planning to vote for this terrible budget, I ask you what is enough? When will you finally decide that the future of our state and the education of our children are more important to this Legislature than ensuring that those at the top make a few extra bucks? I hope that my colleagues will take this opportunity to join me in voting “no.”
Senators Anderson and Hopgood asked and were granted unanimous consent to make statements and moved that the statements be printed in the Journal.
The motion prevailed.
Senator Anderson’s statement is as follows:
I rise to speak to this very important issue amendment to the School Aid Fund. This amendment would restore vital and warranted funding for Garden City, Gibraltar, and Huron Schools. This categorical funding for these districts have, in every previous budget been to correct a problem that arose with the passage of Proposal A, and compensates them from the disparity the school funding caused by its implantation.
These districts are still getting diminished per-pupil education funding today due to the current formula. There is absolutely no justification for suddenly eliminating this funding now and pulling the rug out from those already underfunded and struggling school districts. This is not an issue of favoritism. It is an issue of fairness.
Senate leadership has been playing favorites, though as you have already seen, it is fit to restore this exact same funding to more than ten other districts, the majority of which are in districts that belong to the other side of the aisle. This money for Garden City and the other districts is deserved. It is owed and it should be honored. Most importantly, it was promised. Like any other organization, school districts plan for the coming year based on the funding at hand. When Garden City in my district was promised $8 million over ten years, they planned accordingly. Now that cutting this proper funding for those schools from the School Aid budget and after making devastating cuts to all K-12 budgets from schools last year, Garden City and these other districts will struggle to stay out of the red.
I would ask for support of this amendment to bring some justice and fairness in this budget. I would hope that this body would honor its commitments and keep its promises to these districts just as it already has for many others. I urge you all to join me in supporting this level-headed and even-handed amendment.
Senator Hopgood’s first statement is as follows:
This amendment builds up from conversations that we had previously with the Pappageorge amendment in terms of 20j or former 20j school districts having access to the at-risk funding, which was a good amendment. Madam President, this is a better amendment. It actually does not create a situation where we are having districts at-risk funding compete against each other.
This actually puts the funding in there so that we are recognizing the needs and the issues that some school districts are facing that were former 20j school districts. Quite frankly, they are all over the state. They are in all of our districts, and we know many of them. I just wanted to share a couple that are out there, including the Waverly school district, Warren Consolidated, Midland, Jefferson, Birmingham, West Bloomfield, Lamphere—all over, quite frankly, Madam Chair. So this affects all of us. It is literally thousands of students. We should be supporting the funding that will help them—these students in these school districts reach their full potential.
With that, I would ask for members to support this amendment. It will help make sure that our kids have a good opportunity in the schools, and it will really address a basic fairness issue, as one of the previous speakers talked about with the elimination of the 20j funding and with us, quite frankly, moving to a 2s formula, which is something that, I think, in many of our minds and thoughts we want to see happen. We want to see a way to close the difference in funding between the school districts, but let’s make sure we are doing equitably, and let’s restore some of that balance.
Senator Hopgood’s second statement is as follows:
This amendment restores the MPSERS line that was originally proposed in the Governor’s budget earlier this year. The reason that this is an important way to do this is because the funding was proposed as a way to help address costs that we have in our retirement system. We are actually trying to send the money where the cost burden is, and that is the whole basis for why the amendment and the funding were set up and proposed in the first place.
So it really should not go to school districts based on how they are incurring the retirement costs. It is something that we see and talked about. We know that this is happening locally. We talked about it as a state issue, and this is a way for us to help address this issue. We would love to see it as a piece of ongoing funding that continues into the future.
I think it is important to recognize that the state budget does actually have a role in terms of stabilizing our retirement system and supporting our schools. We should be doing this sort of policy. I ask for the members’ support.
Senator Hopgood’s third statement is as follows:
I rise to speak about this amendment. This would remove $1,000 per pupil from the allowance for school districts that are not a part of and contribute to. This number is volatile to what most school districts contribute per pupil to the retirement system.
As a colleague noted recently in the budget deliberations, it really is not fair that additional school districts pay about $1,000 per pupil while others avoid the costs. Not paying into the MPSERS fund while accounting for it in their foundation allowance is simply a flawed system that gives some schools an unfair advantage. It is also one of the reasons that the MPSERS is in the condition that it is in today.
I think that this is an amendment that we should all have an easy time agreeing upon. I ask my colleagues to support this amendment.
Senator Hopgood’s fourth statement is as follows:
This is the last amendment on the School Aid budget. I ask to speak on Amendment No. 8. As mentioned, this budget provides nowhere near the amount of money necessary for our school districts to operate in a way that will allow our students to have a competitive future. The amendment I have proposed will return the money that you intend to divert elsewhere in your ill-advised budget by investing in the foundation. The School Aid Fund is not Monopoly money for you to play with and plug into the gaping holes left in the General Fund left by your corporate handouts.
By providing $490 million to the foundation, we would bring the per-pupil numbers much closer to their fiscal year 2011 amounts. While this rate does not begin to account for inflation and other factors, it is the very least that we can do to provide our students with the education they need to invest in Michigan’s’ future. The people of Michigan have spoken and the resounding conclusion is that we must stop cutting checks from the School Aid Fund to fund tax breaks for businesses. They want us to be a partner to our children’s education, not an obstacle.
This amendment will allow us to begin to repair that partnership with our schools. I ask my colleagues to do the right thing by supporting the amendment.