LANSING — State Representatives Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids), Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) and Adam F. Zemke (D-Ann Arbor) fought in committees this week to make sure Michigan students have access to the quality education they deserve. Unfortunately, as the week progressed, it became increasingly clear that students remain low on the totem pole in the Republican-led Legislature.
On Tuesday morning the House Appropriations Subcommittee on School Aid reported a budget that continues to divert funds away from Michigan’s K-12 schools. Republicans quickly shot down the Democratic committee members’ 13 pro-education amendments and recommended a budget that continues to divert money away from students. The proposed budget would cut the General Fund support to K-12 by $52 million.
“The Republican-led House continues to short change students in Michigan,” said Dillon. “As state representatives, it is our job to make sure Michigan kids receive the funding they deserve and are not crammed in class-rooms with more students than desks. Unfortunately, the Republicans do not see it that way and refuse to restore the unprecedented cuts they have made to K-12 education.”
K-12 was not the only educational arena that House Republicans attacked this week. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education met to report out its recommended budget, showing a 15 percent cut for universities which fail to comply with Republican passed laws regarding employee contracting. Under this budget, Wayne State University could lose $27.5 million and the University of Michigan would face losses of $41 million. Funding cuts of this size will eliminate important research initiatives and raise tuition costs for Michigan students who are already struggling to afford a college degree, an economic necessity in today’s climate.
“I’m deeply disappointed that the Republicans not only passed a detrimental budget, but shot down Democratic amendments that would have made that budget better for Michigan students. Simple economics show that in order to improve Michigan’s economy, we must increase the number of creative, educated individuals working in our state,” said Singh, Democratic vice chairman of the subcommittee. “Increasing the costs of higher education will deter high school graduates from attaining the degrees they work so hard for. By cutting funding to Michigan’s universities, the Republicans are not only hurting our students, but injuring our over-all economy.”
This morning, the budget from the Appropriations Subcommittee on Community Colleges was the last to be reported. Sadly, against the wishes of committee member Democratic vice chairman Zemke, the Republicans are attempting to attach strings to the actions of Michigan’s community colleges. While there is a minor funding increase allocated for each institution, it would only be available for schools who comply with Republican passed contracting provisions.
“It’s time to remind Republicans that legislators are elected officials who were sent to Lansing to represent the wishes of Michiganders,” said Zemke. “We were not given the honor of this position so that we could puppeteer the actions of public institutions. Attaching strings to necessary funding increases is the opposite of democracy.”