Education, Michigan Republicans — February 9, 2012 at 8:05 am

Are Republicans setting State Government union employees up to take blame for use of budget surplus?


This doesn’t smell right

Yesterday I reported that the state government employees were not going to be forced to take unpaid furlough days due to the state budget surplus.

Later that afternoon, I received this press release from the House Democratic Caucus:

House Dems Champion Restoration of School Funding
Expect funds to be added in supplemental, next year’s budget

LANSING – The House Democratic Caucus today praised the small steps that appear to be leading to a restoration of school funds in an appropriations bill and the governor’s upcoming budget proposal on Thursday.

“I am thankful that the governor and House Republicans have finally seen the light and recognized the harm their school cuts were causing in our communities,” said House Democratic Leader Richard E. Hammel (D-Mt. Morris Township). “While we expect to see some of the funding restored next year, we will still be fighting to get a full restoration of the money to provide our kids the tools they need to succeed in today’s job market.”

According to news reports, the Governor will recommend only $89 million be restored from the Republican-backed cuts that last year took nearly $1.1 billion out of the School Aid Fund. The Governor, along with House Republicans, diverted that money to plug holes in other areas of the budget after passing an 83 percent tax cut for large corporations and their CEOs. Additionally, House Republicans’ failure to act on critical education legislation last year caused Michigan to miss out on potentially receiving $70 million in federal matching early childhood education grant money.

“For the past year, our caucus has listened to parents and community leaders from shoreline to shoreline and we all heard the same thing: ‘restore the K-12 money to our kids–give them the best chance to compete for the jobs of the future,'” said House Democratic Floor Leader Kate Segal (D-Battle Creek). “It was obvious to all that drastically reducing education funding to pay for corporate tax handouts was bad policy. While today we see one small step toward making our children our priority, we have much more to do to reverse the negative effects resulting from the cuts in the past year such as larger class sizes, cancellation of key academic programs, and reduced busing service.”

The House Democratic Caucus held numerous town hall meetings throughout the last year to hear from parents, educators and students across the state about the harm the Republican cuts to our schools were causing. The caucus also launched a website,, which allowed residents to sign a petition opposing the cuts, find the amount of money cut in their school district and submit their personal stories about the detrimental changes to their kids in the classroom. The petition gathered thousands of signatures and hundreds of residents submitted on-the-ground reports about the negative effects seen in their local school districts.

“As a mother with three children in our public schools, I have seen firsthand the devastating effects the cuts have had on our kids,” said State Representative Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield), minority vice chair of the House Committee on Education. “If we want Michigan to create jobs and attract businesses, we need to supply them with an educated workforce that can meet their demands. The money should go back where it belongs – in our children’s classrooms.”

This got me thinking: there is a great deal of competition now for the budget surplus funds. The state Attorney General wants it to hire more law enforcement officials. There is clamor to put it back into education from the Democrats and others. Everyone wants a piece of this pie.

Now the Republican-led administration has taken a sizable portion of the surplus money and used it to give back the furlough days to the unionized government workers. Is this a set-up to put the blame on them for education funding not being restored or for other uses of that money?

When you consider what the Michigan Republicans have done to attack our public employee unions over the past year, it makes some sense and I fear this is exactly what they are doing. I can hear the narrative now: “Well, we would like to give you more money for your schools, your police officers, your [fill in the blank], but those greedy public workers used it all up so we’ll just put what little that is left into the ‘Rainy Day Fund’.”

Mark my words…