FINCH: K-12 roads
By Curt Finch
Since the failed proposal for additional road funding has finished its course, the legislature and governor have promised to figure out a way to focus more energy on this needed area.
Over the next couple of weeks or months they will search for that solution. Their main argument to focus in this area has been the economic impact of a deteriorating infrastructure on slowing economic development. The data gathered after the ballot failure showed a common interest among voters to make roads and road funding a priority. The legislature is continuing to work on trying to raise about $1.2 billion dollars a year towards this end, with the goal to make the funding streams a perpetuating resource. As Paul Harvey would say, there is also, "the rest of the story."
The January midwinter economic projections via the estimated revenue process revealed a significant shortfall in general fund dollars of more than $300 million in the state budget, and a significant uptick in the school aid fund was projected to be more than $350 million, so the legislature moved $250 million from the school aid to general fund ... then the road ballot went down in resounding flames a couple of months later. If we fast-forward to the end of the year, to the May revenue estimating conference, the final total state projection dollars added up to, low and behold, a general fund "surplus" of almost $400 million.
Did they move the $250 million back to education and the school aid fund? No ... What would have that translate to your local district? About $168 per K-12 per student. If you want to know the total district number, just multiple $168 times the number of students in your district.
Despite the spin from Lansing, classroom dollars for K-12 will be minimal again this year with rising costs in health care, retirement, maintenance, structural and the removal of incentive dollars, etc.
Conference committee projections are predicting schools will receive between $70 and $140 per student next year; some districts are already saying they will be going backwards, again. Are roads important? Yes! Are students important? Yes! Can we find a solution for both? The state of Michigan will have an even slower recovery if significant economic investments in education are not made soon. The school aid fund has been raided in recent history to support higher education, early childhood education, adult education, etc., etc. So, when you are dodging the orange cones this summer, thank your local K-12 school district for paving the roads; and this model appears to be one that is going to go on into the immediate future if a permanent solution isn’t found — raiding the school dollars to pave the roads is not a good economic strategy we want to use for too long. Now you have, "the rest of the story."
This is Dr. Finch ... "Good Day!"
Dr. Finch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed @CFinchMOISD on Twitter