Home is Where Your Story Begins

May 12, 2011

Political in Nature (& long)

Filed under: Politics — my3daughters @ 9:04 am

Multiple Choice Question:  What type of government does the United States of America have?

  1. Democracy
  2. Monarchy
  3. Anarchy
  4. Republic

Unless you answered D. Republic, your high school American Government teacher is very disappointed in you.  According to dictionary.com (using Webster is so yesterday), a Republic is a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them.   As a whole nation and as individual states, we chose people to go to Washington DC or our state capital and be our voice.

But how can they be our voice if they don’t know what we are thinking?  We need to speak and they need to listen.  On Monday, May 9, 2011, all the non-core subject teachers in the Chippewa Valley School District (including all music, art, foreign language and PE) received pink slips.  This was in response to Governor Snyder’s proposed budget cuts to education.    Since I don’t care for the proposed budget cuts, I decided to speak and see if my representatives would listen.

I went to http://www.legislature.mi.gov to find the email addresses for my state senator & state representatives.  I did a Google search for Governor Snyder’s email address (Rick.Snyder@michigan.gov).  I then sent emails to everyone voicing my concerns.  Copies of the emails I sent and the responses I received are in this blog.

I’m not going to do a lot of editorializing on the responses.  You can make your own decisions.  I will say that Rep. Goike doesn’t have a clear picture about what going on in the Chippewa Valley School District.  The Chippewa Valley School Board meets with representatives from each school to hear what the schools need and to keep the schools informed.  Now THAT’S a Republic.  If you want details, find out who the CAC representative is for your school.  For Erie Elementary or the Ninth Grade Center, ask me.  I can put you in touch with that person.  I may even write a blog on it later.  I think our district is doing a great job.

Please note that, as of the writing of this blog, I did not receive a response from Governor Snyder’s office or from Representative Lane’s office.  I will keep you updated on any further responses that I receive.

My Original Email to Rep. Lane, Rep. Goike and Sen. Rocca (sent Tue, May 10, 2011 at 1:05 PM)

I am writing to you to plead for the education of the children of Michigan.  They are our future yet Governor Snyder has chosen to cut education funding to our schools.

My children attend Chippewa Valley School District.  Yesterday all the non-core subject teachers (including all music, art, foreign language and PE) received pink slips.  Fine arts, PE and soon foreign language are required components of the Michigan Merit Curriculum, and as such our students will not be able to graduate from high school without them.  Yet the school district cannot afford to continue to pay these teachers without state funding.  I am sure that our district is not the only one with this concern.

Please support our future before there is no future to support.

My Original Email to Gov. Snyder (sent Tue, May 10, 2011 at 1:08 PM)

Governor Snyder,

I am writing to you to plead for the education of the children of Michigan.  They are our future yet you have chosen to cut education funding to our schools.

My children attend Chippewa Valley School District.  Yesterday all the non-core subject teachers (including all music, art, foreign language and PE) received pink slips.  Fine arts, PE and soon foreign language are required components of the Michigan Merit Curriculum, and as such our students will not be able to graduate from high school without them.  Yet the school district cannot afford to continue to pay these teachers without state funding.  I am sure that our district is not the only one with this concern.

Please support our future before there is no future to support.  If you are looking for other places to cut spending, I suggest starting with your own salary and those of the legislators and leaders of the state of Michigan.  I would be more than happy to share with you all how I manage to live on $20,000 a year.

I heard from Rep. Goike first (received Wed, May 11, 2011 at 11:36 AM)

Dear Ms. Lafrate:

Thank you for contacting my office and sharing your concerns about the possible loss of teachers and programs in the Chippewa Valley District.  First, it is important to keep in mind that the Legislature does not determine how school districts spend their money when we establish funding for the year.  In the case of Chippewa Valley, the district would potentially lose $4.5 million in funding this year from the state, if we cannot find additional revenue, which equates to a 3.5% reduction in state support.  Even if such a reduction were made, the district would still be receiving 20% more per pupil than it did 10 years ago.  As the Superintendent has shared, these layoff notices were sent because the district is grappling with a $16 million deficit.  It is true that the $4.5 million is a part of this deficit, which is why I am hopeful that when the state receives updated projections of how much money will be available next year, a significant portion of it will be used to lessen this reduction.

This does not change the fact, however, that even if the state made no reduction, the district would be facing a roughly $11 million deficit this year.  The reason for this is that the district has obligated itself to cover salary, benefit and legacy costs over the past few years than it cannot afford.  The reaction on the part of the district has been to threaten widespread layoffs, rather than simply negotiating sustainable wage and benefit agreements with all teachers to protect these programs and talented young teachers.  Obviously, my hope would be that layoffs and program eliminations would not be the way the district tried to address its funding issues, but ultimately this is not my decision.  What I can and will do, however, is work to bring as much additional revenue back to the district as possible when we get updated revenue numbers this month, but it will then be up to the school board and district employees to make sure it directly impacts students.

Sincerely,

Representative Ken Goike

33rd District

 

And I promptly replied (sent Wed, May 11, 2011 at 12:37 PM)

Rep. Goike,

I am aware that the legislature does not determine how individual school districts spend their money. I am an informed constituent. However, the legislature does determine how much funding is given to education statewide. I am concerned about funding for ALL Michigan School Districts, not just Chippewa Valley.

While the district may be receiving 20% more per student than they did 10 years ago, education costs are higher than they were 10 years ago. I do not have the statistics at my fingertips but I will make an guess that costs have increased at least 20% in the past ten years. Yes I understand that some of that is due to decisions made by the district. But what about costs simply to heat & cool the school, keep the lights on, have running water?

I am impressed that you (or one of your staff) took the time to reply to my email. I am not impressed by your response which basically dumped all the blame on the school district and their decisions. As I said, I am an informed constituent &
I am aware of what is going on in my district. Any concerns I have with their decisions are discussed with them. I sent an email to you to discuss the concerns I have with the decisions of Michigan’s lawmakers (of which you are one).

You suggested that my district not threaten widespread layoffs but instead negotiate sustainable wage and benefit agreements. I suggest that the state not threaten widespread funding reductions but instead negotiate sustainable wage and benefit agreements for Michigan’s leaders. I’m sure that would make more money available for education next year. As I told Governor Snyder in a recent email, I would be happy to discuss with all of Michigan’s leaders how it is possible to live on $20000 a year net income.

Again, thank you for responding.

The reply from Sen. Rocca’s office was brief (received Wed, May 11, 2011 at 3:02 PM)

Dawn,

Thank you for your correspondence. Due to the volume of e-mail we receive on a daily basis, Senator Rocca has requested that you provide your home mailing address.

Thank you,

Catherine Coultes

Executive Assistant

Office of State Senator Tory Rocca

(517) 373 -7315

 

And here’s my reply to that (sent Wed, May 11, 2011 at 4:08 PM)

Ms Coultes,

Thank you for replying to my email. My snail mail address is PO Box 380662, Clinton Township, MI. 48038.

While I understand that you receive many emails daily, I can’t help but wonder why you don’t just reply to them? To reply to an email you just copy from a document program such as Microsoft Word, paste into an email program such as Microsoft Outlook and then click send. To send a hard copy reply, you have to print out the document, stuff it into an envelope, address the envelope and put postage on the envelope. I am assuming here that Senator Rocca doesn’t have the time to send handwritten or even personalized replies to the many emails received.

While I’ve never done a time study on it, I would imagine that it takes less time to copy–paste–send than it does to print–stuff–address–stamp. Plus you are saving the cost of paper, ink & postage. Since my original email addressed budgetary concerns, wouldn’t it be politically prudent to reply in the most cost effective way possible? Not to mention that it just makes sense to let technology help us work smarter not harder.

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