I avoid talking policy on FB. People behave far worse to each other here than they do face-to-face. Just because I resist talking about something doesn't mean I don't have very strong feelings about it.
Here we go.
I support raising my own taxes to support the schools.
Not because I'll get a raise. I won't. In fact, regardless of the outcome of this election, teachers are likely—once again—to be taking home less in September than they did in August. For anybody that cares, many veteran teachers I know are noting that their take-home pay is the lowest it has been for over a decade and a half.
There are three basic streams of revenue:
* Source 1: "Foundation Grant" - you pay your local property taxes and a bunch of it gets sent to the state. It is redistributed to schools in proportions that may or may not reflect the amount of property taxes that are being paid locally. Most of the district's budget comes from the taxes you pay locally. For reasons I will explain a little further down, the majority of this money is *intended* to be used primarily for salaries, program support, and smaller maintenance projects. The legislature decides on a year-by-year basis whether there is going to be a cut (usually) or occasionally a small raise that never remotely keeps up with inflation.
* Source 2: Some extra grants from the state and federal government. This money is used almost exclusively for programs, materials and some limited additional personnel resources. LOTS of strings attached.
* Source 3: Infrastructure bond issues - must be approved by local voters. Can ONLY be used for infrastructure.
This bond issue (and all bond issues), by law, is used for infrastructure. Period. The option to use certain types of local millages for salaries and services went away in 1994... and there isn't—and never was—a "scheme" to reroute the money to pay salaries.
Man, don't I wish.
Bond issue money is raised locally to support the infrastructure of a local entity. This money is *not* channelled through multiple levels of local, state, and federal bureaucracies, each taking their cut. The money we approve for use gets used here. All of it.
The money raised in the last election a few years back was, in fact, used as stated. This is easy information to look up and verify. I understand that a few very angry people will say otherwise. The problem with any assertions to the contrary is that it ignores the fact that bond issues are binding contracts between taxpayers and the entity receiving the money. As for the last Bond issue: Did people hope we could stretch the dollars somewhat? Yes. Did people talk about things they hoped they could add to the list of improvements for the school district based on income/cost projections? Yes. Were a few of the extras able to be completed? Yes, but not all of them. Items that the district were contractually obliged to complete were, in fact, completed. Period.
"Schools need to run like businesses!" Except for private and parochial schools, schools can not decide to raise prices to pass costs along to their customer. Wouldn't it be nice if your local businesses and—even better—wouldn't it be nice if state and federal government had to ask your permission before raising fees and taxes and cutting services? School districts have to wait and see what the state decides to offer in a Foundation Grant, wait to see what the state and federal government offers in additional funding, wait to see what new strings are attached to all of those dollars, then budget on what is usually a flat or shrinking revenue stream and also try to cover expanding costs. In most cases, that means cutting salaries. That has happened. Boy-oh-boy has it. Just ask my tax accountant.
"We spend too much on teacher salaries!" When the assertion is made that our foundation grant must be used to cover ALL maintenance AND ALL construction of any form, shape and variety, it reveals a lack of understanding of the nature of the type of entity schools are. Education is, in fact, a *service industry.* Delivering instruction and providing feedback and support is a labor-intensive process. It is not a business with a product that can be manufactured, and then, in an effort to save money, come to the decision to ship the processes and services out of state or out of country.
In Michigan, the foundation grant covers:
* Salaries including: teachers, bus drivers, maintenance workers and custodians, secretaries, administrators, food service workers, etc.
* To a MUCH smaller extent: Coaching salaries
* Minor-to-medium maintenance and construction
* Utilities including heat, lights, etc.
* Classroom materials and supplies (though many teachers spend hundreds of dollars a year supporting this)
* Transportation, fuel and maintenance, and occasional purchase
* Grounds maintenance including fuel, equipment, vehicles, and supplies
* A portion of curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular materials and supplies including sports, clubs and arts programs
The school does, in fact, invest millions of dollars every year into maintenance and infrastructure. That said, many of the buildings are about half a century old or older.
The revenue from the state has fallen by tens of millions of dollars just since my family arrived in 2003. Sure, student numbers have dropped, and in response, the district has cut the size of the teaching staff considerably and closed buildings. Even with those cuts in staff, salaries and buildings, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to budget for large, long-term, large-scale necessary projects when the budget resources keep falling.
That is important voters to understand, especially when combined with the following: under Michigan's educational funding structure, local communities are *expected* to pass bond issues for medium-to-large infrastructure maintenance and improvements.
Here's another important thing to consider: Port Huron is among the group of schools that gets the smallest per-pupil Foundation Grant of all schools in Michigan. Many, many school districts, regardless of their property taxes, get Foundation Grants that range from $500 to more than $4000 more *per student,* and thus, while paying their teachers basically the same (if not more than Port Huron) those other districts structurally have far more money to work with.
Schools are complicated, dynamic, financial entities. Education funding across the state is inconsistent and often arbitrary.
The Foundation Grant primarily takes care of school employees trying to help the students in the community be prepared for higher education, apprenticeships, jobs, and hopefully be better citizens that want to then help and support the communities in which they, themselves, will ultimately settle.
This bond issue helps to make sure that the students and teachers have the infrastructure they need to fulfill that mission.