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Letter to the Editor: Cuts Made to Education are 'Atrocious'

State Rep. Jim Townsend addresses the Republican school budget and election-year robocalls.

The following letter was sent to Royal Oak Patch by , a Royal Oak resident:

Several people have contacted me in the past week to ask me what my priorities are when it comes to our kids’ education. While I’m always happy to talk about a matter that is so important to our families and our community, the fact that so many people have called in such a short time is no coincidence. I, along with several other Democrats in the Michigan Legislature, have been subjected to misleading election-year robocalls.

More on that in a minute.

First, and most importantly, my priority when it comes to education is simple: to assure that every child in our state has access to a world-class education. And that is why I voted against the education omnibus bill recently passed by the Republicans who dominate our Capitol. I voted against it because next year’s school budget does little to undo the atrocious cuts made to education the year before, when nearly $1 billion was taken from our kids and their schools in order to help fund $1.8 billion in tax breaks to major corporations.

As a result of last year’s cuts, school districts around the state closed schools and cut an estimated 15,000 teacher and other school jobs. This has pushed our kids into overflowing classrooms that lack basic supplies. In many instances, our children can no longer take textbooks home to study because there aren’t enough of them to go around.

This year, the Republicans threw spare change at our schools in an attempt to make it appear that school funding has been restored. Make no mistake — it hasn’t. After cutting nearly $1 billion a year ago, Republicans this year offered to add back just $200 million. It would be as though a thief stole $100 from your wallet and then gave you back $20, expecting you to be grateful. I didn’t fall for that ploy, and I trust my constituents won’t either.

What’s worse, the Republican school budget also pits school against school, making them compete with each other for incentive-based funding increases. This is unfair to our kids and wrong for our state. Funding should go where it’s needed most, not to school districts that already have the financial wherewithall to meet our governor’s arbitrarily picked and untested list of “best practices.”

These are the reasons I voted against the Republican school budget, which they shamefully promoted as a step forward for our kids. I stand behind my vote and I am fighting to restore full funding to our schools. I am always glad to speak to voters about how much I value providing a quality education to every Michigan child. You never need to wait for a robocall prompt to reach out to me and discuss it.

While education has always been one of my priorities in the Legislature, I have been equally adamant that Michigan deserves leaders who are as fair, hard-working and honest as the people who elect them. This is why I have joined with Democrats in the state House to introduce a number of government and election reforms, among them a measure that would require robocalls to identify the organization that paid for them. I also introduced a measure to require Michigan’s top elected officials, including legislators and the governor, to submit financial disclosures. Michigan is one of just three states lacking that sort of transparency.

The Republicans who dominate the state Legislature haven’t allowed these measures to come to a vote, which I believe is a disservice to the people of Michigan. Had they passed, the people who received robocalls urging people to call me to discuss education would have known who urged them to call me.

While I am always willing to explain where I stand on the issues, it’s a shame my constituents can’t demand the same of the unidentified organization behind the robocall.

- Rep. Jim Townsend

Elizabeth June 20, 2012 at 08:04 PM
This just shows how out of touch Rep. Townsend is with the citizens in his community. He clearly has the unions as his major concern and it is time for a change in his district. Mark Bliss, is the best choice to replace him in The House.
Lisa Nowc June 21, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Rep Townsend is the example of why liberal Democrats are blind to which economic policies work and which don't. That's not a surprise, since his shallow letter to the editor proves he is bought and paid by the MEA. let's face it, he's got to make them happy otherwise he loses financial backing. Thank Goodness Bliss sees the real issue and will fight for solid educational funding that does not harm our students and strengthens our schools and community!
Lee June 21, 2012 at 10:59 AM
Rep Townsend is a rarity in the land of Oz called politics. He actually does call back a person himself and discusses with you what your concerns are. Not form letters or more likely no response at all which has happened often to me when I have attempted to contact legislators. What he says about education is right on. Just because a politician has attended school themselves it does NOT make them an educational expert. Let educators teach. They are professionals and DO know what they are doing. They can and do do a great job in a time when it is a battle to reach childrens minds with all of the competition from outside distractions. Not all teachers are "bad" as politicians would have you believe. Also NOT all politicians are the wise ones they would like us to believe they are. I often wonder how many of them could teach day to day and engage the children of today in learning. I challenge them to be a teacher for a week with all of the responsibilities and see how they would stand up. Support Rep Townsend, a welcome change to the World of Oz called Politics.
John W. June 21, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Rep. Jim Townsend (D, MEA) seems to have a problem. Maybe in the world he lives in voting against education is the way to support education. Of course, in his world, we must give the MEA whatever it demands. Mr. Townsend goes on about cuts, with specifics on bottom line financial numbers, but can’t quite seem to come up with any specifics on the reality of the impact. Maybe he doesn’t understand what the proper questions are. Here's some help: How many, by category, of the 15,000 people he claims gat pink slips were teachers, support staff, and administrators were laid off? And how did the MEA decide who got the layoff notice? The class size changed from what to what? And why did the MEA decide to protect bureaucrats at the expense of teachers and the student’s education? “…children can no longer take textbooks home to study because there aren’t enough …” What schools would those be? Could they afford to buy the textbooks if they had real competition for health care, instead of a system where the MEA gets to repackage it for rake off? I realize the “Look! A squirrel!” approach worked really well for the Democrat party for a long time. But rants full of misleading claims and "because evil Republicans!" won’t work any more. Maybe Mr. Townsend should write another letter, this time after a visit to reality so he could address the real problems the rest of us have to deal with.
Lee June 22, 2012 at 02:29 AM
and the Republicans always tell the facts and the numbers??? MANY schools have to limit textbooks and they are not all poor districts. What do you really know about schools today?? Teachers are dealing with real problems everyday many of which are the result of parents not preparing their children to come to school to learn. When is the last time you went to a school to ask what you could do to help? or what did they need?? Just because you went to school 5, 10, or 30 years ago does not mean you know anything about the problems of education and the system today. Good education can not be done by laws. Number one it starts when the families and the public voice support for teachers and education. If adults keep screaming that education "stinks" what are the children suppose to think????
Thomas Gagne June 25, 2012 at 03:08 AM
True, the cuts were unfortunate and painful. So, too, was the loss of property taxes, home equity, and jobs. Education funding doesn't exist on an island. The money appropriated to it must be balanced between other priorities competing for the same shrinking pool of money. Also unfortunate was our tinkering with the state's constitution regarding Proposal A and the Headlee amendment. As difficult as it is to get money for the state from the feds, local governments are also begging to get money back from the state. Taking money from one locality to give another sounded like a good idea in the 90s, but the formula doesn't work well in soft economies. Also unfortunate is how little education has changed in the past 100+ years. Students still sit in classrooms with a teacher. The biggest thing to change from the 18th century, I suspect, is teachers and principals are no longer allowed to discipline children, and are reluctant even to suspend or expel them lest parents demand their heads on platters. And that is atrocious, too.
Andrew June 25, 2012 at 10:16 PM
Well Jim I think you're lost. First off you say you want to "to assure that every child in our state has access to a world-class education." Why and how are you comparing Michigan's education system to other countries such as India, Russia, and China? The problem with your statement is you should be comparing our state's education with other states education systems. Or how about your very own district... What does world-class even mean? At what point and how much taxpayer dollars does it take to achieve a "world-class" education? How much do you want to take from home owners and senior citizens within your district to achieve a non-existent goal? What is the dollar amount Jim? Answer...there is no dollar amount to achieve your cheap phrase. Wake up Madison Heights and Royal Oak, Jim's a bad salesman and a shoddy representative. Can't you do better than him?
J. Thompson June 26, 2012 at 03:42 AM
As an Independent voter, I'm disgusted by the partisan tone of our State Reps editorial. I despise either partiy when they use the partisan approach. Address the problem without the unnecessary partisan hack rhetoric, please.
Thomas Gagne June 27, 2012 at 11:26 AM
A reaction to Mr. Townsend's letter was published in The Michigan Confidential. A link to it appears below. http://www.michigancapitolconfidential.com/17144
Bill Shaw June 27, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Please remember, to be able to be a problem solver requires a lot of time and energy. To able to just point and make accusations is really easy, especially when you don't let facts and reality get in your way. If all the Democrats keep pointing out how bad our school system is, what in the world will our children think? Representative Townsend seems to have a handle on the word "Atrocious" now lets see him come to grips with other words like "Responsibility", "Accountability", "Sustainability" and "Transparency." A look at the representatives donations from the last election really tell a lot. You can well understand this letter if you look at this report!

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