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Education on life support

February 17, 2011 - Steve Murch
Gov. Rick Snyder is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Michigan's budget is in dire straits and there is little revenue to help it out. State leaders around the country have all become jugglers and Snyder has joined the fraternity. They have to keep all the balls up in the air AND please their audiences (voters) at the same time.

Snyder unveiled his plans and no one is exempt from his knife. I don't envy the governor in the least, but big cuts to schools isn't going to help the state. If we want to have the best and brightest live and work here, we need to make sure they are getting the best education here. We aren't going to be able to lure the brightest from somewhere else if their kids can't get the same education. And if someone leaves Michigan for there education, without jobs they aren't coming back – it's a vicious cycle.

Michigan's schools, especially the poorer districts, are barely surviving now. They are all eating into their fund balances and are staring down bankruptcy. The last thing the state needs to do is take over failing districts, or worse yet, close schools and force consolidation. For small towns, their school is their identity in some way. Close the school, force the students to go elsewhere and the town losing its identity. It also may lose some residents. There is a chance people might move if a job of at least equal opportunity presents itself somewhere else if it means their kids are going to be able to go to school in the town they live.

There is a snowball effect that can happen and little towns are the ones that will pay the biggest price. They aren't going to be alone. Both Presidents Bush and Obama had plans that handicapped the education race to some degree – poor districts or states without the ability to raise education levels suffer. We need to find a way to get our equilibrium and make education the priority it should be for everyone.

People want to point to figures that the U.S. isn't educating its students as well as other countries. Others will say the data is flawed. Who cares about the data? That can be skewed in what ever way the interpreter would like it. Ultimately the most important thing is to get it right and get our students the best education possible.

Education is the silver bullet. People who say it isn't don't care about making sure we have the best and brightest living here and making it the best place on the planet to live. They are caught up in the little picture, neglecting the big picture.

Snyder's new budget, which is still only preliminary, proposes a $470 per student cut. For a school district like Alpena, which already is looking at a $3 million loss, it's would tack on close to $2 million more to that loss.

Cuts have to be made, but hopefully as the process works itself out the number will change. In the meantime, there is a need to find another revenue stream for education. We need it as much as the state needs jobs. Jobs and education are probably tied more closely together than any other factors in our state's recovery. Without an education, who can get a job?


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