LANSING — With infrastructure challenges likely the focus of tonight’s State of the State address, members of the state’s two school employee unions are hoping to hear a commitment from Gov. Rick Snyder that much-needed repairs won’t come at the expense of students’ education.
“We have a troubling track record in Michigan of cutting public schools in order to pay for other political priorities,” said MEA President Steven Cook. “With the recent state-commissioned study definitively showing the underfunding of Michigan public education, we can’t afford to harm our kids to address infrastructure concerns. We hope to hear tonight that the governor understands that.”
Students and school employees are no strangers to crumbling infrastructure, which extends beyond roads and water systems to the very buildings in which classes are conducted every day. All these issues need to be addressed – including necessary repairs to school facilities – but that doesn’t mean that funding dedicated to student learning should be siphoned away for broader state infrastructure fixes.
“Time and again, voters have agreed with parents and educators that money meant for schools needs to stay in our schools,” said AFT Michigan President David Hecker. “In the recent lame duck session, we saw that play out again, when lawmakers walked away from Gov. Snyder’s proposal to change how tax refunds work and raid the School Aid Fund of $400 million. We don’t need more shell games. It should not be an either/or – we need more funding at every level of Michigan education and we must repair our state’s infrastructure.”
Both AFT Michigan and MEA are actively examining how schools are funded and how to ensure all students get the resources they need to be successful.
“At a time when so many are delving into the problem with school funding in Michigan, we need to put the shovel down and stop digging a deeper financial hole,” Cook said. “We hope the Governor’s address tonight reflects that and makes the additional investments needed in public schools, without attempts to spend School Aid money on non-educational purposes.”
On behalf of their members, Hecker and Cook applauded the bi-partisan work that’s been done so far through the commission and hoped for it to continue.
“Ensuring front-line educators have a seat at the table to discuss the academic and financial issues facing public education is essential,” Hecker said. “Both MEA and AFT Michigan are committed to helping our members have a voice in Lansing about how to ensure every Michigan student gets the great public education they deserve.”