School Leaders Hoping for Update, Feedback During Forum Tonight

Sen. Jim Marleau and Rep. Tom McMillin expected to attend.

Rochester Community Schools will look to state lawmakers tonight for an update on how this year's state budget will affect the district's 14,800 students.

The Board of Education invited Sen. Jim Marleau and Rep. Tom McMillin, the Republicans who represent Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township, to a public forum on school budget issues tonight.

The begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Harrison Room of the school Administration Building. It is expected to last about an hour; the regular board meeting will follow.

"We are really looking forward to hearing what they have to say about public education, proposed funding changes and new legislation," said Barb Cenko, the board's president.

"We're hoping a large number of community members will come out and offer comments and suggestions."

Gov. Rick Snyder said last week he had reached a deal with Democratic lawmakers that would lessen the cuts he had originally proposed to K-12 education programs. But still — a loss of federal grant money that saved teacher jobs over the past two years, along with some cuts in state funding, are contributing to an expected shortfall of almost $17 million for Rochester schools. The state budget bill is in a conference committee; the governor's office has said it will be approved by the end of May, in time for the school district's June 30 deadline.

Tonight's forum will include a presentation on where things stand with Rochester Schools' 2011-12 budget. To alleviate the anticipated shortfall, the district is looking at using $13.9 million from the district's $30 million fund balance, in addition to making $3 million in proposed reductions.

The proposed reductions include:

  • A 5 percent across-the-board reduction in school building and department budgets.
  • The elimination of media assistants in all buildings.
  • A reduction in paraeducators.
  • The elimination of two part-time high school dean positions.
  • 50 percent reductions in the school bus replacement, infrastructure maintenance and instructional furniture replacement programs.
  • A 10 percent reduction in the district's subsidy of athletics.

School atheletic directors are expected to bring specifics of the atheletic program cuts to tonight's board meeting. Right now, the district's pay-to-play fee for high schoolers is $185 per sport; for middle schoolers, that fee is $85 per sport. A proposed increase of $10 for high schoolers and $15 for middle schoolers will be discussed as an option.

But even with these cutbacks and even if the district borrows from its fund balance, the district's future financial stability has been questioned, repeatedly, by some parents and members of the community. Jeremy Nielson is one such critic, and he plans to speak to board members again Monday night.

"We need to stop hoping things get better – don't lock us into a path that will hurt our kids' educational opportunities next year," said Nielson.

Cenko said that she specifically wants to hear from Marleau and McMillin about the long-term forecasts for education spending in Michigan so the board can determine how the future years will look for Rochester.

"Is the problem we're facing short-term, or are we looking at (the funding cuts) being a repeat problem year after year?" Cenko said. "I am hoping to hear that there will be an upside to all of this."

Tonight's forum: What to know

  • The forum will begin with a brief presentation from assistant superintendent for finance William Mull; he will detail the latest budget forecasts. 
  • McMillin and Marleau will have 10 minutes apiece to speak.
  • Members of the audience will be invited to ask questions of Marleau and McMillin, in writing, on cards. Debbi Hartman, the district's community relations director, will read the cards and ask questions of the lawmakers.
  • The forum will be followed by the board's regular meeting. The budget will be a main focus.
Jon Awbrey June 16, 2011 at 03:00 PM
Mr. Reno, You're welcome to the information. Those links were partly in follow-up to questions about specific examples of ALEC's so-called “model legislation” — what various other people have been calling “boilerplate bills”, “cookie cutter laws”, “copycat acts”, “cut-&-paste legislation”, “ghost-written bills”, and even “Mad-Lib Laws”. You may have noticed what happens if you attempt to read any of the specific titles on ALEC's Model Legislation Pages, for instance, the Education Page: • http://www.alec.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Education What you get, well, what I get, is this message: ❝ The page you have attempted to access is restricted to our members. If you are an existing member, please log in to gain access to the protected areas of our site. You are not currently logged in, please click here to do so. ❞ That naturally makes it very difficult for We the Peons to find out what kind of Hob-Nobbing our elected representatives are carrying on with the agents of this corporate ideology group. Tanks, But No Thinks — maybe some people are copacetic with that, but lots and lots of us peasants think it's revolting.
Mike Reno June 16, 2011 at 03:17 PM
Thanks again. Your efforts to help combat this repressive MEA union will be put to good use. Probably wouldn't have noticed it were it not for you.
Rob Ray June 16, 2011 at 03:28 PM
Sounds like progress Joshua! And I agree: it's obvious that the dialogue on these threads is choppy at best. I'm afraid that I probably can't add much to the dialogue, but I'd like to see those so passionately discussing the topic to be a little more diplomatic about the process. Arguing on the internet has never led to a solution. @Patch -- this might be an interesting idea to encourage, especially if some structure could be provided to ensure it's actually a conversation and not a soap-box.
Jon Awbrey June 16, 2011 at 03:32 PM
Another one of my all-time favorite movies ... http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120630/
Lone Ranger June 16, 2011 at 03:35 PM
"Fire Snyder! Fire Snyder! He hates teachers and eats children! He wants to burn down public schools and force kids to apprentice to blacksmiths and quarry workers! Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!" If a bunch of Democrats hadn't jumped to vote for Snyder in the Republican primary, he would have lost to Hoestra or Cox. Maybe Bernero and his pro-union, anti-business policies could have beat one of them. You created your own problem. Suck it up and deal with it. We had to put up with eight years of Granholm ruining Michigan's economy.


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