DR. RON COWDEN: Raddatz letter doesn’t tell the whole story

TO THE EDITOR:

As I read Joel Raddatz’s letter, “Reader: ranz is not working for the 101st Distrct,”  in the Oct. 2 edition of the Manistee News Advocate concerning inadequate funding of Michigan’s K-12 public schools, I believe that additional information is warranted.

Instead of constantly blaming our current Gov. Rick Snyder and our 101st District Rep. Ray Franz, it would be helpful if Mr. Raddatz and his followers would actually look at the data.

According to the non-partisan Senate Fiscal Agency, since Gov. Snyder has been in office — and supported by Mr. Franz — state funding for K-12 schools has increased 7.4 percent from $10.8 billion in 2011 — the last budget of former Gov. Jennifer Granholm — to $11.4 billion in fiscal year 2014. At the same time, student enrollment has dropped 2.4 percent.

Despite political rhetoric, state funding for our public K-12 system is at an all-time high. For the record, the last time that state revenue for schools was reduced was during the administration of Gov. Granholm.

An important factor Mr. Raddatz’s letter fails to point out is that for years, school districts across the state failed to adequately fund their pensions. As a result, the school retirement system (MPSERS) is underfunded by $25.8 billion — the highest it has ever been.

To fund the system, the state charges districts a percentage of payroll to cover retirement benetifs and health care. The rates increased from 12 percent to 30 percent in the last decade — a significant reason why more money is going into benefits rather than to classrooms.

Like Mr. Raddatz, I, too, am an educator, having devoted 43 years to students and their families. Over the years, I have learned that every segment of society desires more money for its budget. I witnessed many years when contracts were approved that now contribute to districts’ current budget constraints. However, we must realize there is a finite amount of money available.

It is the responsibility of boards of education and district administrations to define workable budgets and operate within the funds that are available. If we don’t, future generations will experience unsustainable debt.

Thanks to the leadership of Gov. Snyder, our state Rep. Ray Franz, and state Sen. Darwin Booher, Michigan is recovering. Under the policies and leadership of Gov. Granholm, Michigan lost more than 800,000 jobs. Today, Michigan is one of the leaders in economic recovery, ranking second behind South Carolina in creating the most jobs — some 300,000 — since the end of the national recession.

We are attracting businesses and families back to Michigan. While all is not perfect, we are on the road with positive results. Keep up the good work, Lansing leaders. It is up to us voters to maintain this effective leadership.

Dr. Ron Cowden

Manistee

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