AAPS Superintendent: Education Support Lacking from Lansing

Swift and Irwin-online
Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, with AAPS Superintendent Dr. Jeanice Swift. Photo provided by Dr. Swift.

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.”

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  1. Dr. Swift:
    I am very pleased with your strong response to the Governor’s SOTS address. There is a groundswell of parent reaction to the imposition of standardized assessments and the Common Core. I hope your administration will take a stand against these measures, as we parents are doing, and speak out similarly in support of our fine teachers and against evaluation by scantron. This community values education, not corporate-imposed measurement and data collection.

    Again, thank you for your advocacy on behalf of our children in public schools.

    Cynthia Bostwick

  2. That money was actually used to “help right some structural issues with pensions,” Dr. Swift said. “To say that went to children is inaccurate.”

    I would like to know whose decision is it to assign money to address structural issues with pensions vs go ‘to children’.

  3. Dr. Swift,
    Thank you for attending this event and being there in support of our district and the students as individuals.

  4. My two children attend Pioneer High School. Cynthia Bostwick’s comment above is EXACTLY how I feel. Ms. Bostwick wrote:

    “There is a groundswell of parent reaction to the imposition of standardized assessments and the Common Core.”

    I agree, and I am a part of that groundswell.

    Thank you.

    Kirk Taylor

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