Governor Whitmer’s Budget Deserves Applause from Educators — Gas Tax & All

As a school Superintendent, I have any number of difficult decisions I’m required to make to balance our district’s budget every year. None are as frustrating as when the reality of our budget situation requires us to eliminate programs our students need or a service that parents rely on.

Anytime these decisions have to be made, I’m asked by both parents and students the simple question of why it had to happen and the answer, unfortunately, has always been the same: Because our state hasn’t made education a priority.

Year after year, school districts across the state have watched as the legislature raids the school-aid fund to pay for other priorities while at the same creating new hoops for districts to jump through that take time away from our core mission of educating our students. Just this past December, laws were passed on the same night that both diverted $170 million in additional money out of the School Aid Fund annually while creating a counterproductive new letter grading system for schools that had little guidance and appears to violate federal rules.

These legislative raids of the school-aid fund combined with operating costs that increase year after year means the status quo simply won’t cut it anymore when it comes to funding Michigan’s schools. Instead, we have to make a bold, new commitment to our schools and our students if we want to truly live up to our obligations to provide them with a world-class education.

The budget proposal introduced by Governor Gretchen Whitmer last month is the lifeline that schools across Michigan have been asking for. It not only provides a historic new investment of money for our districts, but, more importantly, stops the one-size-fits-all approach of how the state allocates that money to instead focus on the unique needs of every student in our classrooms.

In short, the Governor’s a game-changer for our schools, our students and our state’s future.

The Governor’s planned investment in our schools, however, is contingent on the rest of her budget proposal moving forward. It’s a budget that fixes decades of neglect to Michigan’s most critical needs: Our roads, infrastructure and, yes, our schools. It ensures that money is spent where taxpayers expect it to be spent, meaning gas taxes get spent on roads while also putting an end to the ongoing raids of our school-aid fund.

Central to the Governor’s budget plan is, of course, a 45 cent increase in the gas tax. While it’s easy to understand and agree with concerns about the cost such a move would have on families, the truth is that the cost of doing nothing is far greater for every family in our state who believes their children deserve a world-class education, clean drinking water and roads we can safely drive on.

As an educator and as someone who believes it’s long overdue that we start investing in Michigan’s future once again, I’m proud to support the Governor’s plan because it is the only one on the table that would provide the revenues our state & our schools need after so many years of slashing budgets and creating the funding crisis we are now faced with.

Our students deserve leaders that are willing to make the tough decisions that will create opportunities for their success. Governor Whitmer has put a plan on the table that does exactly that and it’s time for our legislature to follow her lead and put this plan into action.

George Heitsch
TCA President & Superintendent of Farmington Schools

Dr. George Heitsch