Sunday, October 18, 2009

Washtenaw County ISD Millage - There are Better Options

As a former school business manager, I can tell you from an "insiders" perspective that there are still ways to cut the spending of school districts that the districts are electing not to choose. Instead, they fear monger with the parents about cutting services to kids, cutting teachers, increasing class sizes, etc.

Contracting out additional support services has been recommended in the booklet "Six Habits of Fiscally Responsible Public School Districts" for over 10 years, but little adopted by school districts. At Adrian in 2006, we could have saved $800,000 per year if we had contracted out our custodial work. Only later did they partially contract out, and just recently contracted out the transportation department as well. This is not easy, and good people are adversely affected. Nonetheless, if given the choice of protecting adult jobs or better educating the students, what would be your choice? What if you were on the school board and the mission was to educate students?

Another option would be to decrease the actual total cost structure of the wages and benefits, instead of decreasing staff numbers. Education is a people intensive business, and about 85% of a district's budget is devoted to people costs. State law permits school distrists to impose a contract on the employees if agreement in collective bargaining is impossible. I am aware of only one district in the state with over 500 school districts which has had the guts to do this. The key target must be the teachers' unions, as they are the big driver of the compensation levels among all school employee groups.

I am not against teachers, as most I have had the pleasure of knowing are wonderful, dedicated educators. Nor am I against education, as education was the key for my 5 brothers and sisters and me getting out of poverty after my dad died leaving my mom with us 6 kids. But, I am not for raising taxes in the current economic downturn with struggling homeowners and businesses when there is a better way to adequately fund the education of our kids.

Also, backing a tax increase thinking it will "improve the economy" is a smoke screen we should all be able to see through.

I recommend a "No" vote on the proposed millage.

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