Proos gives education funding updatePublished 10:22pm Monday, August 15, 2011
When he stopped by the Niles Community Schools Board of Education meeting Monday night, Sen. John Proos received remarks of appreciation from members of the board, including President Jeff Curry.
But Curry also issued the senator a challenge.
“I am challenging you to have the governor come down here when these kids start to show progress,” Curry said.
The board president was referring to the number of new initiatives and programs the district has instituted as their way of combating declines in state funding.
As the state continues to move in through education reforms, Proos, R-St. Joseph, said it was that kind of “retooling” that was being faced by many throughout the state to rise above challenging times.
“It has been a challenging time,” Proos said. “But it has been for the last decade for Michigan families.”
Proos cited census data that showed Michigan’s population numbers had dropped in the past 10 years and said the state’s budget problems are “directly related” to its number of taxpayers.
Proos added the state’s lawmakers had made progress in balancing revenues and making Michigan more competitive with other states and the legislature had even paid down some of its “credit card” debt.
That debt, approximately $52 billion, he said, accounts for $24 billion to $26 billion in teachers’ retirement and health care costs, which is what has led the state toward education reform.
The Niles district is still in negotiations for a teachers’ contract.
Reform, Proos said, “is about giving you all the tools” so that teachers who deserve it are paid more and ensuring those teachers have the tools to become more successful.
He described the contention between officials and the teachers’ union as “ unfortunately, an ‘us and them’ scenario.”
But as districts throughout the state continue to face challenges with funding and finding ways to appeal to more students to increase those funds from the state, he said he had hope for the future.
“I would hope during this time of transition, we can come to a place of cooperation,” Proos said.
Board trustee Dana Daniels said he believes the district has good quality teachers working in its classrooms.
“I don’t think we have a problem with our teachers … I think our problem is with the teachers’ union, the MEA,” Daniels said.
To that, Proos added, “I would agree completely.”
Still, he added in regard to the future of education, he believes there to be “a predominance of folks who understand that it’s time for us to change.”