As Halloween approaches, we must remind ourselves that Michigan schools have been living Halloween for the past ten years! With the shrinking tax base, loss of students to other states, less births and the legislature’s mythical Chinese torture approach of a “thousand small cuts” to K-12 funding, your local school has seen their economic resources dwindle while oversight has doubled. Finding the right explanation of these past years can be hard to quantify. The on-line encyclopedia called Wikipedia has a great definition of “death by a thousand small cuts” as a creeping normality: the way a major negative change, which happens slowly in many unnoticed increments, is not perceived as objectionable. People get used to it, so it seems normal. I believe many of our Michigan governments are strategically using this approach to avoid public uproar; the loser is your local school.
The lobbyist from the Michigan Association of School Boards has reported that since January of this year more than 45 tax-break bills have been introduced which reduce the resources put into the School Aid Fund (SAF) – and that’s just this year! Many of these tax breaks seem relatively small, $10 million here or $40 million there; a large one, the used car trade-in bill, will hit the SAF for $152 million. The total projected House proposals this year will hit the $238 million mark if passed. These numbers do not include the hundreds of millions already taken out of the SAF and sent to higher education and business tax breaks.