Letter to the Editor: Please help fix school funding

My name is Steve Keglovitz and I am a member of the Fruitport Community School Board and a long-time resident. I want to let the public know about what is going on in the struggling schools’ system funding. First, I need to explain some things. Only 6.7% of the state lottery dollars go toward funding of education dollars (not the state commercial selling point).

Some schools are sitting on very healthy funds due to Homestead property taxes, which hurts the poor areas and poorer districts and benefits the more wealthy, affluent neighborhoods and their schools. We also send taxpayer dollars (which used to be earmarked for public education) to the state charter schools and academies, because they can’t get Homestead dollars, so we supplement them, although they are not forced to exist and be run under the same rules and guidelines as public education.

Then there is the MPSER’s issue, which is the formula for paying costs of public education pensions and healthcare retirement costs. When MPSER was established, the state agreed to fund MPSER and factor costs into the per pupil foundation allowance. While MPSER’s rates rise, due in part, to privatization of jobs (fewer school employees making their contributions), the add-on allowance hasn’t increased for years.

We all know about the school districts that are struggling to stay alive, but do we know why? Two weeks ago, I sat through a MAISD presentation to area county boards, and they talked about the funding hole we are headed to. Their answer was to privatize even more jobs and services at all county public schools. I am happy to say that Fruitport Community Schools has somewhat avoided this issue, but like all schools, our funding is dwindling. My question is: “Why doesn’t the state, our citizens, and the ISD’s lobby and educate our elected officials to fix the REAL symptoms?” Everyone talks about education, and our young people are some of our most important resource, so why not make a quality education attainable for everyone everywhere?

In 2011, our elected state officials started cutting public education funding. There was already strong sentiment and instances of privatizing non-core school jobs (custodial, bus drivers, secretaries and food service) but the state mandated schools did this to get school funding dollars.

I will try to explain why I am against privatization. First, the employees get no pension or healthcare, and typically make minimum wage. I am concerned how we can do this to people who generally live in our community and need wages to survive.  How do they work towards ever retiring at minimum wage? The employers look to make profits for themselves, but with the school as the employer, we have more control, employee ownership, and we should be paying a living wage. Our support staffs at our area schools know our students and care about them. They want our students to succeed as much as their teachers do. So should we not show that we value them and their work by paying them fair wages and benefits as they put great efforts in their jobs, also?  I believe that we should, just as we have in the past.

We can request our elected state representatives and governor walk the talk and fix public education funding by putting a much higher portion of lottery dollars into public education and funding MPSER out of alternative means. We can get them to change the allocation per pupil funding and base on need or a rate that takes in allowances the wealthier school districts throughout the state. We can ask them to stop taking monies that had been earmarked for public education and putting them in college coffers or charter/cyber school funding. They can still fund these programs, just not at public education expense. I am asking for the voters and public’s help by email, phone, and talk to your representatives, asking them to walk the talk on education for our youth and help our young people. I would also ask that you talk to your school board members and school superintendents, as they are also responsible for the education of your children and shouldn’t feel forced to make decisions that will affect your children and your neighbors. You can also attend the school board meetings and ask questions as they are open to the public, and every item has an effect on our schools, kids and employees.

Steve Keglovitz