Jan. 17, 2014
By Tara Cavanaugh
AAPS Superintendent Dr. Jeanice Swift attended Gov. Rick Snyder’s “State of the State” Thursday night as a guest of Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor).
Dr. Swift said she was disappointed by Gov. Snyder’s “lack of attending to the real issues in school finance and the superficial consideration that he paid to school safety.”
“In the past three years we’ve invested $660 more per student than there was previously when I took office,” Gov. Snyder said early in his speech last night.
That money was actually used to “help right some structural issues with pensions,” Dr. Swift said. “To say that went to children is inaccurate.”
The district’s per-pupil funding has continued to decrease. AAPS’ per-pupil funding in 2002 was $9,034; in 2013 it had decreased to $9,020.
“As compared to back in 2002, our children have higher instances of living in poverty, speaking English as a second language and experiencing other at-risk factors,” Dr. Swift said.
Dr. Swift also added that public schools are experiencing a “whole host of unfunded mandates” in the form of new required assessments, new literacy requirements and new online requirements.
Overall, “Declining resources, families with more needs and unfunded mandates place us in this perfect storm of K-12 education finance,” Dr. Swift said. “We’ve come to a point where none of us is honest if we say that we’ve added to K-12 funding and support.”
The governor briefly mentioned school safety, including safety drills and a confidential reporting hotline. Dr. Swift said his cursory remarks on school safety were insufficient. (Recently the Ann Arbor Public Schools joined a county-wide safety training that focuses on teaching staff to respond to an active shooter.)
Dr. Swift was pleased with Gov. Snyder’s support of early childhood education. The legislature has invested $65 million to create 18,000 openings for preschool children, and the governor pledged another $65 million toward the same cause.
“We are excited about the additional early childhood seats and we believe it is among the most significant and powerful steps we can take to progress on closing the achievement gap,” Dr. Swift said. “I will point out that the funds are for increased numbers of slots, and it appears it doesn’t provide additional per-pupil funding. There is still a gap between the per-pupil funding and what it really costs to educate preschool children.”
Dr. Swift hopes that the nearly $1 billion surplus in the state’s budget is used in part to make up for the declining state support for public education.
“We have made it through this economic downturn by balancing our budget on the backs of children and seniors and other most at-risk populations in our community,” Dr. Swift said. “This money, with no adjustment for inflation costs or additional requirements, is not a bonus. It’s beginning to back fill a small portion of what was taken away.”
“I was so happy that Dr. Swift could join me for the SOTS because I believe the single most important way to make Michigan a better place to live is by supporting high-quality public education,” Rep. Irwin said. “As we take stock of the state of our state, we need to re-align our priorities so that funding for locally controlled public schools comes first.”
Dr. Swift is looking forward to hearing Gov. Snyder’s preliminary budget in the coming weeks, and in regards to funding public education, said, “We’re going to continue to apply the pressure everywhere we can.”
Related on the AAPS News:
- Annual audit better than expected but district finances still not ideal
- Gov. Snyder’s education plan draws sharp criticism at Ann Arbor forum
- AAPS joins countywide safety training
- Enrollment update: ‘When you eliminate teaching positions, it has an effect on class size’
- ‘This is a serious situation, and it’s not new – parents, administration review 2013-14 budget
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