Ann Arbor education and local government leaders joined with residents Thursday to advocate for increased funding for the city’s public schools.
Held in Liberty Plaza in downtown Ann Arbor, the rally highlighted statewide budget cuts on K-12 and higher-level education and the declining reputation of Michigan public schools.
The speakers at the event, which was hosted by Michigan Teachers and Allies for Change, included Linda Carter, president of the Ann Arbor Education Association, Jeanice Swift, superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools, Rep. Jeff Irwin (D–Ann Arbor) and Lisa Brown, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.
Last week, Education Week published a nationwide report card last week comparing education within states. Michigan ranked eighth in the country for K-12 education quality, 38th in elementary reading and middle school math and 40th in overall high school graduation.
Citing this report, Swift, the Ann Arbor Public Schools superintendent, expressed her frustration with state legislators and criticized them for failing to prevent this deterioration.
“While we’ve been having a meltdown into mediocrity with regard to how we fund public education, other states have mobilized and moved ahead of us,” she said.
Carter, the president of the AAEA, echoed this sentiment, inviting legislators into classrooms to assess the declining condition of public schools.
Encouraging protesters to sing along to her rendition of a workers’ union anthem, she rallied the crowd of fellow educators to take a stand against budget cuts.
“This is unacceptable,” Carter said. “We’re not going to take it anymore.”
Though M-TAC, the host of the event, is non-partisan, event moderator Quinn Strassel announced the group’s support for Mark Schauer, the Democratic opponent to Rick Snyder in the upcoming gubernatorial election.
Irwin, the state representative, castigated Republican legislators in the state for the decline of its public schools. Many Democrats, including Mark Schauer, the Democratic candidate for governor, have criticized Snyder for presiding over massive cuts in education funding.
************Though Snyder increased funding for education in the fiscal year 2015 budget plan and has increased state funding for K-12 schools over the course of his tenure, classrooms have been receiving less money, largely due to lapses in federal stimulus money.
According to an analysis by The Detroit Free Press, state funding for K-12 education in 2011 — the final budget submitted by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm — was $10.7 billion. In fiscal year 2014, Snyder called for an $11.4 billion state allocation to K-12 education.
However, many Democrats have criticized the Snyder administration for failing to compensate for the loss of federal stimulus money.
Irwin criticized the state’s move to privatize public schooling, saying charter schools are proven to perform worse than public schools. Many Republicans have advocated expanding charter school options as a method for improving education in the state. **************
Irwin called on voters to “take back the house” by electing Democratic representatives to the legislature.
Brown, too, faulted Republicans for decreasing education funding and channeling funds to allow corporate tax breaks.
She outlined some of the points in Schauer’s education plan, which includes standardizing class sizes and eliminating budget cuts. She also encouraged protesters to take to the streets and social media to encourage more people to vote in the upcoming election.
“This is about giving every child in Michigan a world-class education and bringing a brighter future for all of our kids,” she said.