DPS and Flint—Main Topics Addressed During State of the State

Aaron Keel

By Aaron Keel, MASB Assistant Director of Government Relations

DashBoard, Jan. 27, 2016

Last Tuesday, Gov. Rick Snyder delivered his State of the State address amid growing controversy surrounding the Flint water crisis. Gov. Snyder dedicated a majority of his speech to addressing the crisis by speaking directly to the residents of Flint and the thousands of others tuning in from across the state and nation.

After spending some time on Flint, Gov. Snyder then turned his attention to another looming crisis on the horizon—the finances of Detroit Public Schools. In the eyes of many, these two issues are inextricably linked. In a statement issued last week, MASB Executive Director Don Wotruba noted, “DPS is not just a Detroit problem. The Flint water crisis is not just a Flint problem. For too long, the state has not adequately funded our municipalities and our schools. It has led to the crises we currently face. We owe it to our communities and to our children to do better by holding people accountable and finding solutions that work.”

While each of these crises require an immediate short-term solution that our elected leaders must make a priority, the Governor also announced the formation of new commissions on infrastructure, education and the economy to look for more long-term solutions to these issues facing the state at-large.

The commission on infrastructure would be tasked with forming recommendations regarding water and sewer infrastructure, energy and electrical girds, broadband modernization and upgrading the Soo Locks. The education commission would look at improving education governance, funding, and career and college readiness in Michigan schools. This commission is expected to incorporate the findings of ongoing studies on school funding and career technical education, as well as taking a look at other obstacles holding the state back. The commission on the economy would be connected with the other two commissions and tasked with making recommendations on developing an environment that supports economic development and encourages business growth.

Each of these initiatives and any potential short- or long-term solutions are sure to cost large sums of money. Further, with mounting pressures on the General Fund, it is unclear where this money will come from. What is clear, however, is that every child in Michigan deserves a quality public education, and that we must begin making the proper investments to ensure safe environments at home and in the classroom for our children to learn and succeed.

As we enter budget season, MASB looks forward to working with elected leaders to address these crises. Further, until we put forward real plans to address the symptoms and the causes of the problems facing our schools and communities, we will never have long-term solutions that get places like Detroit Public Schools and the city of Flint back to the thriving districts and communities they once were.

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