2017-02-16 / Views

Cyber school rollback to help ‘at-risk’ pupils

By Tim Skubick

Back in the “bad old days” when Michigan’s economy was in a nosedive, the news lead out of every state budget was how much was being sliced and diced from state services to keep the budget balanced.

Gov. Rick Snyder’s most recent blueprint for spending $50 billion of your tax dollars was anything but doom and gloom. If anything it was spend and spend on everything from cleaning up our parks to pumping $778 into high school kids attending at-risk schools all over the state.

The budget director was asked, “Are there any cuts in this budget?” Al Pscholka reflected, “A few here and there.”

As you sat through the budget presentation a lot of what this governor wants to do is consistent with what Democrats want to do, such as spend more on schools — check, beef up the infrastructure — check, hire more cops — check, and help the needy with a hefty boost in their yearly clothing allowance — check.

In fact one Democratic representative reports that Mr. Pscholka told him, “There’s a lot of stuff in here you guys will like and my guys may not.”

So if you are an ultra conservative Republican who believes government is too big and needs to be on a crash fiscal diet, the current GOP governor’s budget is not for you.

The governor has hacked off some from his own party on several fronts. First, he has taken money away from “cyber schools” and re-directed 20 percent of it into public schools.

For years Democrats have argued it was unfair to fund those cyber schools at the same level as regular schools because the former don’t have the buildings to maintain, the janitors to pay and heating bills to cover. This year the governor bought into that philosophy much to the chagrin of those who think otherwise.

The education lobby was not exactly upset with the governor’s overall budget including a hefty $778 per pupil increase for at-risk high school students. Republicans will take a hard look at that. The governor’s reasoning is that the cost of educating high school kids is more expensive than elementary students. Poverty is also another factor.

As the gov’s school guy puts it, “not through any fault of their own” those 680,000 students have challenges. John Walsh also explains that many come from broken homes and foster homes. In some cases just getting them to school every day is a challenge. And if you do get them in the classroom, they need extra attention.

He and his boss agree that if you help students now, they have better odds of becoming productive citizens later on. Others would add that it’s better than sending many of them to prison where schooling provided won’t make them productive.

The governor wants to pump another $50 million into the Flint water crisis. That on top of the $250 million that’s already been spent. You have to wonder at what point lawmakers will say, “Enough is enough.”

They are not there yet, but Flint Rep. Pam Faris, a Democrat, is concerned about what she calls “Flint fatigue.” She is hoping her colleagues will not lose sight of the fact that many are still drinking bottled water and parents want to make sure their kids “are not drinking out of a garden hose.”

The governor has made a big deal out of fixing the state’s aging and sagging infrastructure and formed a commission to lay out a road map on how to do it. More importantly, it is studying how pay for it.

Mr. Snyder concedes he will not find the $4 billion a year for the next twenty years that a commission recommended in year one or two. He favors a piecemeal approach and has formed yet another study group to make recommendations on which revenue sources to use to begin the journey. Those suggestions are due in May.

There is one sticky wicket that finds the governor and Democrats on one side and his party on the other — the tax rollback debate. Simply put, the R’s want a rollback and the gov and D’s don’t.

However, the governor would never be so crass as to say that out loud.

Instead what he does say is that he is willing to “talk” about it. But any such talk must include a conversation on where the R’s want to cut state services to find the money to pay for a give back to citizens.

So far the GOP has not offered any cuts — which means, don’t spend your tax rollback just yet.

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If you are an ultra

If you are an ultra conservative Republican who believes government is too big and has continued to vote Republican, you are the problem. If you wish to argue, look at the federal deficit under Bush and compare it to that under Obama.