Voters in Alpena, Alcona and Montmorency counties spoke clearly, and with authority Tuesday, in defeating the AMA ESD school millage request. In fact, the number of voters who turned out to vote was particularly high (25.78 percent) for a non-November election.
Voters defeated the request by a 3-1 margin, so what did we learn Tuesday?
First, we learned that voters, given the right issue, still can become energized, focused and effective. This was a passionate issue, and it rallied people together who otherwise might not have been natural allies.
Second, we learned that "community" only extends as far as your back yard. While state law required the AMA ESD be the vehicle that drove the election, voters resented approving millage for four school districts instead of one. The fact that four districts were tied together in one was the single biggest contributing factor to the millage's defeat in our mind.
One can only wonder what would have happened had these been four separate requests Tuesday.
Third, we believe most of those who voted "no" Tuesday still love their schools, appreciate the work taking place there and want to see education succeed. Their "no" vote wasn't an evaluation of the school system, but rather the reality of their pocketbook.
Fourth, and finally, without a doubt a crisis exists in educational funding in Michigan. Local voters have spoken. Local districts now are in peril. The state can't continue to ignore this issue and hope it is going to disappear.
True educational reform needs to take place immediately, particularly with how the state funds education. Northeast Michigan voters might have provided the proverbial "kick in the pants" Lansing politicians needed to get those discussions flowing again.
Let's hope so. Our students deserve real reform today, not tomorrow.