Dec 6, 2004
Reporting that sales tax revenues were down, State of Michigan officials announced they would have to cut funding to schools around the state by as much as $150 per pupil.
This financial attack on public schools comes on top of three years of de facto cuts freezing the state's contribution to the public schools even as costs went up.
The schools in Detroit and other working class urban areas and most rural areas will be hardest hit. In these areas, the populations already tax themselves at the state's limit – a much higher rate than paid by the populations in most wealthy suburban districts.
For several decades, under both Democratic and Republican governors, the state has played a game with funding public schools. When the lottery was first passed, the politicians promised that it would add funds to the schools. In reality, as the lottery money began to roll in to the schools, the state cut back its share of school funding paid out of its regular revenues.
In 1994, under a referendum paid for and pushed by big business, the state reduced property tax support for the schools, replacing it with money coming from a 2% increase in the sales tax. This did not increase money for the schools. But it did reduce the taxes paid by big business, whose main local taxes were property taxes. Individuals may have had their property taxes reduced also – but they more than made up the difference by paying increased sales tax and other consumption taxes on gasoline, tobacco and alcohol.
When the city and state officials were trying to legalize casinos in Detroit, claims were again made for another big bonanza going to the schools – this time, the additional tax money coming in from casino operations.
It didn't happen.
Today the state acts as though it has no obligation to fund the schools. At the same time, it continues to finance more gifts to corporations. The very same week the state announced school cutbacks, it announced tax breaks for businesses worth 15 million dollars.
Our children need an education – and all of them need access to the same good education. That can happen only if the state assumes the full obligation to fund public schools.