New Statewide Campaign Seeks
Increase in Education Funding
A statewide collaborative of parents, educators and grassroots organizations is urging the Michigan legislature to increase funding for education, arguing that cuts to the education budget are harming community wellbeing, student preparedness, and the economic competitiveness of the state.
The campaign is called “Invest in Education!” It is organized by the Michigan Organizing Collaborative (MOC), a network of civic, faith-based and grassroots organizations representing 50,000 members. MOC announced the campaign last week at separate press conferences held in Detroit and Grand Rapids.
Part of the campaign is a new online petition drive. Michigan residents are encouraged to sign the petition, contact their legislators, and advocate for greater investment in education.
“We hope to make education funding a defining political issue,” said Victoria Kovari, with MOC.
The Detroit press conference featured many speakers talking about the detrimental impact of the nearly $1 billion slashed from the state education budget last year, as well as the attrition of state education funding over the past decade.
Steve Norton, president of Michigan Parents for Schools, said that state funding for schools has declined by 20%, when adjusted for inflation, and should be $2000 more per pupil, if funding had kept up. As a result, the quality and range of educational programs has suffered.
“In Michigan, we fund education backwards,” Norton said. “We should look first at what kind of education do we want for our kids and our communities, and then fund the resources to make it happen.”
Cuts to education have forced school districts to reduce staff and teachers, increase class size and eliminate programs.
“After the education cuts last year, my school saw 52 kids in one kindergarten class, which is simply unacceptable,” said Barbara Mays, parent leader at Barton McFarland School and president of Our Kids Come First.
Rev. Jerome Warfield, pastor of Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist Church, said that the cuts are creating a downward spiral in the community and its economic health. “When you divest in education, it causes moral decay and damages our democracy and our civil society overall.” Rev. Warfield said.
Lawrence Williams, a senior and Southwestern High and leader of Youth Voice, said that the cuts have hurt morale at the school. “We have lost programs in music and band, swimming, arts, and foreign languages, including Spanish,” Williams said. “This sends a message to students that our own government doesn’t care about our educational needs and choices. It makes academic success an even greater struggle.”
“We try to create a culture of high expectations at our school,” said Mary Kovari, principal of Cody High School. “If we fail to meet those expectations, it is because we do not have enough classroom-based resources,” She added that investment in public education is necessary to create a world-class workforce in Michigan that attracts businesses.
The Detroit press conference was held at Southwest Solutions’ Larkins Early Learning Community (ELC) hub. Donna Cielma, director of our Children, Youth and Families program, opened the press conference by voicing Southwest Solutions’ support for increased funding for education.