Thanks to the abject failure of the state government to do its job of providing Michigan’s schools with the money they need, the primary loser in this year’s budget debate is K-12 education. Despite the obvious importance of education to the state’s future, legislators don’t seem to understand that without well-funded schools, Michigan’s prospects only grow more hopeless. But until legislators are held accountable and reverse their failure, private citizens must step up and choose to fund local schools. And college students, too, should do their part to make sure the children of Michigan do not suffer a decline in the quality of their education.

After weeks of Democrats and Republicans in the state legislature fighting over spending, Michigan’s budget debate finally ended last week. Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed the final 2010 budget on Friday — a budget that slashed K-12 education funding, the Promise Scholarship and higher education funding The big loser, though, was K-12 education, which will now see at least $292 less per student.

There’s no escaping the fact that state government failed one of its most critical tasks by reducing depleting education funding. Providing for education is one of government’s most important functions, and the legislature can’t be said to have done its job until it rights this wrong. But in the meantime, Michigan’s schools can’t just wait for the government to realize how badly it’s erred or until the next election when these impotent legislators can be punished. Private citizens have some additional responsibility to fill in, for now.

One such citizen who is doing something is Ypsilanti Township resident Lonnie Scott, a Democrat who is running to represent the 54th District in the state House of Representatives. According to an Oct. 29 annarbor.com article, Scott wants to find 3,000 people who will donate $12 to create scholarships of $1,200 each for students in the three school districts. This type of fundraising could provide a stop-gap measure for school districts across the state. The generosity of people who care about the quality of education in Michigan is needed to maintain educational quality in the short run.

That includes means college students. Though students are infamous for having small funds and busy schedules, there’s no reason why they can’t find some time to help out the schools that first cultivated their intellectual abilities. While encouraging other students to vote for a school millage that most of them won’t ever have to pay for is one strategy, college students should do better than advocating that someone else take care of the costs. In addition to raising some money themselves, students can volunteer as tutors and coaches at local schools in the area or back in their hometowns.

Indeed, some students at the University are already giving back through programs like K-grams, in which University students are paired with elementary-school pen pals. This type of program is low-cost and a small time commitment, but it makes a big difference to individual kids. More students should recognize the need for volunteers in programs like these in times of need for local schools.

In tough times, many people are lending a hand to local schools, and more people — including college students — should do what they can, too.

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