A group of Michigan House Democrats gathered in Southfield this morning to level charges that Republican lawmakers and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder are leaving school children behind when it comes to funding education.
During a press conference held at University Academy, a school for gifted and talented students on the Southfield High campus, lawmakers said the proposed budget continues a $470 per pupil funding cut currently in place. What's more, they said, the omnibus legislation lacks transparency and makes it more difficult for citizens to see exactly how tax dollars are being allocated.
State Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton (D-Huntington Woods), who is minority vice chair with appropriations subcommittees on school aid and community colleges, said Republicans voted against multiple amendments that Democrats offered to restore school funding.
"I think that it's an understatement to say that those of us that are here, and all of you, and parents all across the state are really in a state of outrage over what has happened over the past two years," she said.
The Republican-proposed budget puts Michigan's education funding below 2006 levels, State Rep. Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield) said. Even though financial incentives are proposed for districts that meet certain "best practices" bench marks, those dollars also come out of state funding that is meant for all K-12 schools, she added.
According to Cogen Lipton, Republican lawmakers have said they created the list of best practices themselves, and Brown pointed out the benchmarks have more to do with budget and school management. "You really don't see students in the list of best practices," she said.
State Rep. Rudy Hobbs (D-Lathrup Village) pointed to the fightschoolcuts.com website as a place where citizens can go to get information about school funding and how to get involved. The interactive website offers a search feature that shows how much funding individual school districts stand to lose, based on House Fiscal Agency estimates, under the proposed Republican budget.
Lawmakers said the omnibus education budget is currently in conference committee, so citizens still have time to contact their lawmakers about it.
This is a developing story.