A DIFFERENCE OF OPINION: MANISTEE COUNTY DEMOCRATS: Better funding for schools is bigger issue

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the next installment in a monthly series that will pose a question or topic chosen by managing editor Michelle Graves, with responses presented by members of the Manistee County Democratic and Republican parties. The author is chosen by the respective party and may change from month to month. Columns will be published on the last week of each month. This month’s topic is affordable housing. Writers were asked to respond to the following:  Everyone agrees the children are our future, and their education is most important. But many disagree on how best to go about providing that education. Each school district elects its own board, the State of Michigan elects a board and the U.S. Department of Education oversees all of that. Are all three entities necessary? How much control should each have over students’ curriculum and assessment?

Guest Columnist

How Michigan’s public schools are organized and who really has influence, or should have, are subjects as old as Michigan itself. Generally speaking, those entities, governments and individuals who provide resources for the schools wish to have their ideas considered, including which curriculums are adopted, and how they are assessed.

Since Michigan’s taxpayers foot most of the bills for Michigan public schools, they have through their elected representatives the power of law itself to enforce the requirements of those receiving these funds. That includes constant communication to insure the proper use in accord to their wishes. It should come as no surprise that the state, including our legislatures, the department of education and local school boards represent our citizens by winning elections by the vote of the people.

The federal government provides a proportionally smaller role in funding the average Michigan school district, and a smaller group of federal congressmen and senators, elected by Michigan citizens, oversee how this investment is spent. My point here is to show there is much public oversight in how Michigan public schools decide who makes the decisions affecting our children. But citizens must step forward to serve.

Manistee Democrats approve and salute the nonpartisan requirement for our district boards, and believe strongly that all issues not exempt by law should be discussed openly by all school boards. We generally agree that the boards at all levels should hear all people, and that different solutions might be appropriate to solve problems in different districts. We also believe in following the law in letter and spirit. We certainly believe that everyone, not just Democrats, can offer service to their district that includes serving on school boards.

So to answer the questions: Are three entities necessary (local, state, feds)? We are inclined to think so, but will listen to other ideas.

How much control should each three have? Since all three presently provide money and ideas, again let’s hear from others who may offer better ideas to streamline this. We stand ready to work with all people of good will, and see disagreement as a prelude to good decision-making. We generally are willing to let the ebb and flow of how the issues are judged by our elected boards to reflect which local, state or federal is more necessary. Generally we believe that the wisdom of a policy decisionmaker, not the geography of their home, should be of prime importance, and accept the judgment of the ballot box as the ultimate authority.

However, I would be remiss if I did not point out that Manistee Democrats feel that our schools are overwhelmed not only by just the large amount of data and paperwork required of any entity in our modern times, but far more by the underfunding of our schools! As the data work has increased, our workforce has decreased. For example, seen any nurses in Michigan schools these days? Gone with the dinosaurs, I’m afraid. Any social workers or school psychologists? As many assistant principals, counselors or teacher aides as when you were in school? (With one exception, there are only part-time superintendents in Manistee County.) Their work is still growing, and still being done by the proportionately fewer hands available, and these poor folk may be overwhelmed. We suspect “the mounds of paperwork” may be growing by less people on the job, caused by years of underfunding.

Perhaps streamlining the policymakers would offer some advantage for children, and Democrats are willing talk about it. However diminishing local, state and federal involvement in our public schools is only a symptom of a more malignant disease. Our public school districts need almost everything these days, including much better funding, and we certainly support that.


Joel Raddatz was a school administrator at seven Michigan school districts over 32 years, most recently at Williamston Community Schools and then Manistee Area Public Schools. He can be reached at joel.raddatz@gmail.com. Find more information on the Manistee County Democratic Party at www.manisteecountydemocrats.us.


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