LANSING — Today, the House of Representatives approved the state budget for fiscal year 2018-19. In response, state Rep. Tom Cochran (D-Mason) issued the following statement:
“When it comes to giving our kids the best start in life possible, keeping them healthy and giving them a great education are the two best things we can do for them. Instead of focusing on the quality of their education, Republicans in the Legislature are still playing games with the School Aid Fund Budget. After the Michigan Court of Claims ruled in April that our state Constitution explicitly prohibits us from spending taxpayer dollars on private schools, this budget once again earmarks funds for parochial schools. Not only are we setting aside money that should be going to public schools, we are also wasting taxpayer dollars on future court battles when this appropriation is inevitably struck down. I can’t support this unconstitutional waste of public money that comes out of the wallets of hardworking men and women, which is why I voted no on the School Aid Fund budget. I also encourage my colleagues to take note of this ongoing issue and to be weary of this provision in future budgets.
“Additionally, this School Omnibus doubles down on the policy of doling out the maximum foundation allowance to cyber schools — schools that don’t maintain school buildings or bus fleets and provide no school lunches, libraries or wrap-around services. Schools that don’t provide the same level of services and programming as traditional school districts don’t have the same operating costs and don’t need the same level of funding. It’s blatantly inequitable to give those cyber school operators the same level of funding while students in traditional schools make due with tattered textbooks.
“Finally, this budget contained a punitive measure that stands to shutter schools that are struggling to turn themselves around. Schools in partnership agreements with the state stand to be closed or to be forced to fire a quarter of their teachers if they can’t meet stringent goals within 18 months. Closing schools and getting rid of teachers won’t help any child learn. This will only punish teachers, ward off young people who were considering entering the teaching field and push our children into ever more crowded classrooms.”