School Millage Defeated, Higgins Wins

Also, voters approve changes to Ann Arbor city charter

A quick election summary:

  • the countywide school millage was soundly defeated, though supported by a majority of Ann Arbor voters; [detail on WISD millage results]
  • in the two contested Ann Arbor city council races, incumbent Democrats Sabra Briere in Ward 1 and Marcia Higgins in Ward 4 were re-elected by wide margins; [detail on Ward 1 council results; detail on Ward 4 council results]
  • both Ann Arbor city charter amendments were approved by voters, changing publication requirements for the city’s ordinances. [detail on Proposal A results; detail on Proposal B results]

Complete election results from across the county are available on the Washtenaw County elections website. Later today we’ll have a behind-the-scenes report on election night at the county clerk’s office.


  1. By Dave Askins
    November 4, 2009 at 7:08 am | permalink

    Interesting outcome on the millage among absentee voters. While Ann Arbor voters who voted at the polls supported the millage by a 9,616 to 6,876 margin, the absentee voters were against it in every Ann Arbor ward.

                                     YES     NO
    City of Ann Arbor, AVCB 4        196     345
    City of Ann Arbor, AVCB 1        113     119
    City of Ann Arbor, AVCB 2        314     357
    City of Ann Arbor, AVCB 5        215     313
    City of Ann Arbor, AVCB 3        150     239
  2. By Linda Diane Feldt
    November 4, 2009 at 7:33 am | permalink

    Maybe they voted before they got those last 12 robocalls, so they weren’t annoyed enough yet at anonymous threats, exaggerations, and distortions, triggering suspicion and a vote in opposition to what the calls demanded.
    I’m just saying, that campaign must have caused a total loss of credibility for the opposition, and triggered a backlash, so that people looked for a reason to vote yes.

  3. By Chris
    November 4, 2009 at 7:38 am | permalink

    Or maybe people who are voting absentee because they are elderly or out of the area don’t want to pay more taxes for any reason. It is peculiar, though.

  4. By Linda Diane Feldt
    November 4, 2009 at 8:01 am | permalink

    My mistake. I was thinking of the other yes vote. My comment is in error.

  5. By Cosmonican
    November 4, 2009 at 8:52 am | permalink

    As an absentee voter I can state that I voted no, and will stick by that decision — but, the announcement of the huge state cuts in the school budget came after I voted, had I weighed that into my reasoning I may have voted the other way.

  6. By Julie
    November 4, 2009 at 9:07 am | permalink

    I am utterly dismayed at the millage vote. These are my kids. Our kids. And I’m so angry at the people who want to diminish their schools. We’ve cut so much already. Maybe AAPS didn’t do a good enough job communicating all the cuts that have already been made. I’m so depressed this morning. I want to live in a community, a state, a country, where schools are valued and supported as a matter of course. We are so far behind other countries in this. And the repeal of gay marriage in Maine just tops it off. I can’t stand that people can actually vote on other people’s civil rights and families and dignity. I’m disgusted.

  7. By Elizabeth
    November 4, 2009 at 9:59 am | permalink

    I wonder what the millage vote distribution was for people whose polling place was in a school, vs. at some other location.

  8. November 4, 2009 at 10:05 am | permalink


    I’m sorry you’re upset about the millage. I very much care about children but cannot support an increased millage. There’s more than 600 million dollars available to MI schools from the Feds right now. Also, the local schools have not cut enough in my opinion. They are spending more per pupil now than from just 2 years ago. Because of the economy people are living the area in droves, and yet simple things like negotiating health plans that can save money from staff and provide equal benefits are not implemented. The schools are well above the national average in spending now, and more money from the pockets of the people in the hardest hit state can’t be the solution.

  9. By Rici
    November 4, 2009 at 10:16 am | permalink

    What is ironic is that Ann Arbor voters – who currently have the highest taxes (at least that’s the common belief, I might be wrong), and who would be ‘donating’ part of their millage to the other county schools – voted *for* the school millage, while most of the rest of the county precincts were against. Seems that AAPS made a compelling case, but the other districts did not.

  10. By AntiRedRidersNo1
    November 4, 2009 at 10:24 am | permalink

    Ah, the common “economic woes” crutch.

  11. November 4, 2009 at 10:28 am | permalink

    Rici–I think that people don’t really understand how school financing works (which is understandable since it is extremely complex). And in addition–even though I know plenty of laid-off Annarborites–some outlying areas have been hit a lot harder making it financially harder to vote yes on a millage. Even though, as you point out, they would have gotten a gift. I feel a lot of anger out there, too, at schools and rules. There’s a lot of, “I suffer, so you should suffer.”

    Bottom line though: the idea that kids count gets a lot of lip service. The idea that education is important gets a lot of lip service. When it comes to actually funding it, though, that’s a different story. That’s why the school aid fund gets poached. Because kids don’t really count, unless we make them count. IF kids could vote, I’m sure the results would be different.

  12. By Jody
    November 4, 2009 at 10:31 am | permalink

    Democracy is quite inconvenient, isn’t it, Julie?

  13. By Dan Ryan
    November 4, 2009 at 11:08 am | permalink

    I would guess absentee voters are more likely to vote No against the millage because they are more likely to be the housebound elderly.

  14. By Duane Collicott
    November 4, 2009 at 11:47 am | permalink

    “These are my kids. Our kids.” They’re my kids, too. However, I have a different opinion.

    “And I’m so angry at the people who want to diminish their schools.”

    You are putting forth that those who were against the millage are in favor of diminishing the schools. This is a fallacy.

    “We are so far behind other countries in this.”

    Actually, we spend more per pupil than every other country, with the exception of Switzerland and Austria.

  15. November 4, 2009 at 12:29 pm | permalink

    I’ll make a prediction: The next 24 months will see very significant cuts at Ann Arbor schools, resulting in another millage, which will then pass.

  16. By Julie
    November 4, 2009 at 12:34 pm | permalink

    Jim, I bet you are right.

  17. By Julie
    November 4, 2009 at 12:38 pm | permalink

    Only problem is… how many art and music teachers will we have fired by then? And how huge will our classes be in the meantime?

  18. November 4, 2009 at 1:27 pm | permalink

    Or maybe they can reduce waste and overspending.

  19. By Marvin Face
    November 4, 2009 at 2:16 pm | permalink

    I voted at the school that my children attend and I had no issue whatsoever voting No.

  20. November 4, 2009 at 4:56 pm | permalink

    Watch for the millage to reappear in the November, 2010 election, when there will be a huge (and largely Democratic) turnout for state races. It will pass.

  21. By Michael DiLaura
    November 4, 2009 at 5:54 pm | permalink

    I am really glad that this millage did not pass. I go to a publi school and know why the schools asked for this millage. It is because they do not want to reform thier high spending budget. Money is not in surplus in Michigan right now and just because the schools spent to much, does not mean that we, the public, have to compensate.

  22. By Tom C
    November 4, 2009 at 8:19 pm | permalink

    One word on this one: McKinley. McKinley was the big bucks sponsor of ‘Citizens Against the Millage’ thing. Spent a ton of money but it was a good gamble – spend a bit to see if they could turn a vote so McKinley could avoid paying millions.

    Dollar Democracy at work – money talks. The rest of us can walk.

  23. By Dan Ryan
    November 4, 2009 at 8:56 pm | permalink

    The millage failed because it was overwhelmingly opposed. Maybe McKinley’s money bought some oppo mailings. I don’t know. I never saw any and I bet most of the people who went to the polls didn’t either. I voted for the millage because I have a hard time opposing education, but proponents just better accept that it wasn’t the right time, and the schools didn’t have a very compelling argument on how they would spend the money.

  24. By Marvin Face
    November 4, 2009 at 11:32 pm | permalink

    I disagree with Tom C. I didn’t hear any robocalls for either side (caller ID, I love you) and didn’t get any flyers. I didn’t know anyone on either side of the issue. As hard as it is to fathom for some, I decided on my own. Each side could have spent a million $ and it wouldn’t have mattered to me.

    My firm belief is that the amount of money spent per student does not equal success. I did the math and could have afforded the extra $600/year but it would not have made my kids classroom experiences any better.

    As to Mr Cahill’s assertion that the millage will come back next year and pass, I say that he is obviously a little grumpy he wasn’t on the winning side this time and got a little snippy. The opposition to this was not party affiliated as he seems to suggest. It was a grass-roots, gut-level reaction by folks who either didn’t see the need, wanted more accountability, or couldn’t afford the extra financial burden. If the economy picks up, the yes side may pick up the last group but will likely not pull the others.

  25. By ChuckL
    November 5, 2009 at 9:25 am | permalink

    David Cahill,

    Hopefully, the WISD school systems will do a much better job of informing the public how the extra money will add value to the community. On election night, I learned some details of how Skyline was funded. Since Skyline is a high school, there is a 9 year lag from kinder garden to high school. This means there was a 9 year window into the future high school attendance numbers when the vote for Skyline came up. The AAPS did analysis and found that the worst case scenarios (which by the way, have tended to come true) would reduce funding for teachers due to the building overhead exceeding any increases in state funding due to an increase in enrollment. These worst case scenarios were suppressed and the public was shafted. I applaud Ann Arbor’s willingness to fund public education, but stories like the one above give me much pause. How do we fix the problem of lack of transparency? Why should Ann Arbor throw more money at schools when games like this are being played?

  26. By Vivienne Armentrout
    November 5, 2009 at 10:07 am | permalink

    I am concerned about the vote as an indication of a trend in our society to limit expenditures that help the society or community as a whole and to restrict payments to items that will benefit only oneself and one’s immediate family. An article in Science magazine (October 30, 2009) Intergenerational Wealth Transmission and the Dynamics of Inequality in Small-Scale Societies made me think about this in terms of public education. Public education is where we all pay to educate the children of the current generation. It is a form of intergenerational wealth transfer (without education, children and the adults they become will not succeed) that historically was restricted to one’s own family or clan. It has been a great leveler in this country that we have had education, and therefore economic opportunity, available for everyone’s children. Unfortunately, older people without children in school have a bad history of not voting for school millages, as shown by the absentee votes. I am proud to say that I was on the failing “yes” side, childless though I am.

  27. By Hospadaruk
    November 5, 2009 at 12:03 pm | permalink

    I wish I’d paid more attention to this campaign, not realizing slumlords from McKinley were behind the opposition, I would have never imagined this failing. My bad, and I won’t be sleeping next time.
    A great quote from another web-site; “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”…
    …and this from a founding father:

    “Laws for the liberal education of youth, especially of the lower class of people, are so extremely wise and useful, that, to a humane and generous mind, no expense for this purpose would be thought extravagant.”
    ~ John Adams in “Thought on Government”, April 1776

  28. By Marvin Face
    November 5, 2009 at 1:24 pm | permalink

    Vivienne and Hospadaruk, you both make good points but I think you are misguided. We can all agree on the fact that education is important and essential. You will get no argument from me there. What I disagree with is the premise that providing more money automatically equals academic success. If it makes you sleep better at night thinking that you have “done something great for society” by voting yes, then more power to you. I just happen to think the current funding is adequate to do a great job.

  29. November 5, 2009 at 3:02 pm | permalink

    “Our citizens may be deceived for awhile and have been deceived; but… we may trust to… the tax-gatherers [for light]; for it is not worth the while of our anti-republicans to risk themselves on any change of government but a very expensive one. Reduce every department to economy, and there will be no temptation to them to betray their constituents.” –Thomas Jefferson

    “A rigid economy of the public contributions and absolute interdiction of all useless expenses will go far towards keeping the government honest and unoppressive.” –Thomas Jefferson

    “I am for a government rigorously frugal and simple, applying all the possible savings of the public revenue to the discharge of the national debt; and not for a multiplication of officers and salaries merely to make partisans, and for increasing by every device the public debt on the principle of its being a public blessing.” –Thomas Jefferson

  30. November 5, 2009 at 5:34 pm | permalink

    “A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” — James Madison, on the importance of public education funding in Kentucky (1822)

    Does that still count?

    Maybe it’s more complicated than a simple quote, or universal rule of thumb, will encompass.

  31. By Marvin Face
    November 5, 2009 at 9:04 pm | permalink

    “Back to school. Back to school, to prove to Dad that I’m not a fool. I got my lunch packed up, my boots tied tight, I hope I don’t get in a fight.”
    - Billy Madison (1995)

  32. November 5, 2009 at 9:35 pm | permalink

    Vivienne — I think you fail to see the concern of at least some of us who voted against the millage. You are a bit quick to assign motives (i.e., the reason why)in the absence of understanding. This could be viewed as a failure of education.

    I personally would vote for MUCH greater funding IF I could be assured that we were getting the best “bang for the buck.” I do not feel that this is now the case. In other words, its not the “buck” that bothers me, it is the “bang.”

    Let me illustrate. We allocate a significant portion of teacher compensation to pension and other legacy costs that will be with us for decades after the teacher retires. This benefit does little to stimulate current performance–all you have to do is stay employed to get it. In other words, meet the minimum.

    In my opinion, that allocation of funding needs to be reconsidered. If it is not necessary to attract teachers, then use it to hire additional teachers and reduce class size. If it is necessary to attract teachers, put it in the salary where all can see it. If viewed in that manner, I suspect you’ll see a lot more “buck” than “bang.”

    Let me offer a little challenge for those with access to data and analytical skills. Take the TOTAL education dollars (current and legacy out of pocket–including the funding of unfunded past liabilities)and divide by the number of teachers to get the total cost per teacher. Ignore who the dollars are going to, just measure teaching cost. I will conjecture that this cost far exceeds the benefits our children are receiving. Since I did not have this calculation, I voted on my conjecture.

    Hospadaruk,Fred and Bill: A little less pontificating and a bit more reasoning would be better received on this side of the millage teeter-totter (I thought I’d work Dave into the discussion).

  33. November 5, 2009 at 9:46 pm | permalink

    Hey folks, The Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation is asking for your immediate donation.

    The Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation is a non-profit organization separate from the Ann Arbor Public Schools that serves as the one true vehicle for private giving to public schools in Ann Arbor.

    Approximately 54% of voters in the Ann Arbor Public Schools district voted yes. If each of 12,971 “yes” votes were to donate an average of $250 annually (based on an average home value of $250,000 and a taxable value of 50%), we would instantly raise $3,242,750 annually to support public education in the Ann Arbor School District.

    I serve on the Board of The Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation and I am personally asking you to consider this request.

    You can learn a lot more about The Foundation at this website.

  34. November 7, 2009 at 5:38 pm | permalink

    @Dan Ryan and others:

    I don’t want this to sound like sour grapes, but I really have to reply, as the campaign manager for the Ann Arbor part of the vote yes campaign.

    We did just about everything we could to get our message out, both about why the schools were requesting the millage and what it would be used for. We simply did not have the $100,000 which McKinley’s owner and CEO spent on the opposition campaign. That was $50,000 when they made their 18 October pre-election filing, a $25,000 late contribution that next week, and a further $25,000 late contribution made just days before the election. Can’t wait to see their post-election filling! (See the county’s campaign finance web site for details, including our campaign filings.)

    If you missed the no campaign, I don’t know how. Whether it was the one or more full page color ads in every print issue of in the two weeks leading up to the election, the radio ads in heavy rotation, the robo calls, the postcards (I got two glossy ones), the tri-fold mailers they sent to targeted seniors around the county, or the “no” signs which I have been told saturated the out-county townships in the last few days before the election, it was hard to miss.

    Was there going to be a lot of opposition to the millage regardless? Sure. Did the McKinley money have an effect? Absolutely. Why? If nothing else, it allowed them to take their message to many more people by far than we were able to, and repeat it often enough that their “facts” took on a patina of truth simply by virtue of repetition.

    Anyone who claims our campaign never said what the money was for has evidently chosen never to look at any of our fliers, articles, or our campaign web site (or the AAPS web site, for that matter). It sounds nice as a blog “sound bite,” but is simply isn’t true. Unfortunately, truth was one of the casualties on election day.

    Steve Norton
    lately, volunteer campaign manager
    Ann Arbor Citizens Millage Committee

  35. November 7, 2009 at 6:08 pm | permalink

    Gary Salton, I was not intending to assign specific motives to people who made that choice to vote no (some of my best friends did so) but rather to reflect in general on, as I said, a trend. My comment was partly inspired by the many anti-tax (in general) messages that this issue inspired, including some fairly mean-spirited comments. I was in a philosophical mode having just read the article I cited and thinking about the trend in our society towards inequality. But it was not my intention to insult anyone, and I apologize if I did. (I will in turn assume that you are not accusing me of being uneducated.)

    The comment about older people not voting for school issues was also not aimed at individuals though it was probably not graceful (sorry). I still remember when the school I was attending as an elementary pupil failed to make its tax measure (some states require yearly votes) and the nice elderly couple living behind us told my parents that their children were grown and they saw no reason they should have to pay the tax.

    Most of my friends who did not vote for the measure pointed to the heavy tax bite (2 mills is quite high, compared to most recent millage measures, and double what some townships levy for their operating millage) and to the donation by Ann Arbor to those township venues. These are tough times, and residents of Ann Arbor are being hit with increased costs in many different ways, including a loss of services and increased fees. Also, while I chose to make a leap of faith that the expenditures were justified, clearly many did not get the information that persuaded them. As we say in politics, the proponents failed to make the sale.

  36. By Me
    November 7, 2009 at 10:33 pm | permalink

    Gary Salton: “Let me offer a little challenge for those with access to data and analytical skills.”

    It’s easy to understand the level of spending if you think of it this way. 23 kids per classroom x $12,000 per kid = $276,000 per classroom per year. The teacher makes on average $72,000. If you double that salary to $144,000 (other staff), there’s still $132,000 left per classroom (to pay for the building, etc.).

    Divide that $276,000 by 180 days of school — it’s $1533 per day per classroom. Divide that by the 23 students and it’s $67 per day per student.

    A private school I know of publishes an annual report that shows sources of revenue in one pie chart, and expenditures in a second pie chart. I’d like to see such pie charts for the AAPS and WISD.

  37. By Laura
    November 8, 2009 at 8:59 am | permalink

    Live in Ann Arbor, didn’t hear any ads or see any fliers one way or the other. This just isn’t a good time for us to pay any more taxes. We are already struggling to pay the bills.

  38. November 8, 2009 at 10:52 am | permalink

    #36-”Me”: Thanks for the effort. I expect that your calculation of cost is a bit understated. It does not take into account the unfunded legacy cost payable to past teachers and administrators. After all, that is just a form of deferred payment. We’re probably paying for past teachers and building liabilities on the current ones. If these costs are not included, they should be. However, your calculation is large enough to make the point.

    I’m beyond the age where my children in school are relevant. However, my firm does pay for private education for employee children (we’re very small and can get away with it). I dug out a recent bill, $12,000 or so per year. I divide by your 180 days and get $66.67 per day. Comparable to your calculation but there are not legacy costs to worry about. For that, our 6 year old knows how to divide, uses punctuation in her writing and reads “chapter” books. She is not an exception. The other kids in her class are doing about the same. I figure we’re getting “bang” for the “buck.” I don’t see that in Ann Arbor schools. Why not? I would argue that it is not a lack of dollars.

    Vivienne: The employees all live in Ann Arbor. They are paying taxes for schools their kids do not attend. The way I look at it, as a firm we are currently making donations to the schools.

  39. November 8, 2009 at 10:55 am | permalink

    An addendum: By the way, the student/teacher ratio in the private school is 10:1 rather than the 23:1. We get that for the same $67.00 per day that Ann Arbor schools pay.

  40. November 8, 2009 at 11:02 am | permalink


    I’m amazed that you saw nothing about the millage, pro or con. But, be that as it may.

    No this is not a good time to ask people to pay more in taxes. But is it a good time to make huge cuts to our schools, and lose programs that have been built over decades and will take years to rebuild, if the money ever becomes available?

    Schools are the engine of long term economic growth; business can’t function without educated workers, or prosperous customers, or without a community which is able to attract new residents and employers.

    The opposition campaign relied on the fantasy that there was plenty of fat to cut, which could be accomplished without hurting kids’ education. They imagine huge, unspecified, treasure chests of waste in administration which could be swept away with a stroke of the pen. They also call specifically for breaking the teachers’ union and cutting pay across the board.

    Sounds good: cut teacher pay – hasn’t everyone else suffered, too? Absolutely. But contrary to the fabrications we see on the blogs, teacher pay in AAPS (at least) has not kept up with inflation for years. Can most private sector professionals say that? Moreover, given the school funding situation in this state, more cuts are coming each year for years to come.

    So tell me this: are we likely to get better schools and better teachers by offering these professionals large pay and benefit cuts each year for the foreseeable future? How, precisely, does this avoid hurting the classroom?

    Times are hard, and we will need to ask our schools to tighten their belts – and they have been doing so for some years now. But know this: we fund our schools with a tax structure that barely keeps them afloat in good times, and pulls the rug out from under them when times get hard. Is this any way to invest in our future, or our present?

  41. November 8, 2009 at 11:18 am | permalink

    To Gary Salton:

    It’s nice that your firm is able to offer private school tuition to your employees’ children. And (good) private schools do offer a good learning environment. But they can also afford to be very selective in the students they accept. Teachers work at those schools for less pay because they know they will have smaller class sizes and not have to deal with the troubled children they know they would see in a public classroom. I understand that reasoning, and don’t point any fingers. But it is important to know that the population is different. And so are the demands on teachers.

    Moreover, the $12,000 per pupil you and others are using for AAPS includes all Federal and State funds for special education and children living in poverty. These funds are earmarked for specific kinds of programs and cannot be spread across the entire general education budget. Our state per-pupil allowance for general education was about $9600 before the cuts being made by the Legislature.

    Finally, you are not making a donation to the public schools. You are helping to pay for the basic public infrastructure that makes it possible to run your business profitably in this community. You may not have had to call on the fire department for help, but does that make the taxes you pay for fire protection a “donation”?

  42. November 8, 2009 at 12:43 pm | permalink

    Hmmm, maybe you have an idea worth building on Steve. How about lower pay for smaller classes. Premium pay for difficult students. As you point out, the money is already segregated in the state’s allocation. Seems like a natural thing to do.

    Yes Steve, I am paying for infrastructure. I MAY use the fire department–a direct benefit. My benefit in using the schools is indirect at best. In any event, I am paying my taxes and I still have a business in Ann Arbor. Evidence based reasoning suggests that I do find value here. If I didn’t, I’d move to Austin.

  43. By Laura
    November 8, 2009 at 3:21 pm | permalink

    “I’m amazed that you saw nothing about the millage, pro or con.”

    I thought paying more property tax was con enough.

    I can’t see why the schools shouldn’t cut back like everyone else. We are in an economic depression.

  44. November 8, 2009 at 6:26 pm | permalink


    Only if you believe that “the schools” are something we get no benefit from and have nothing to do with us.

    Our public schools *are* us. Yes, these are hard times. But is it wise to cut back on the education our children are getting? The kids in school now won’t get a second chance at it. These are the times that we all need our schools the most.

    Not to mention the fact that cutting schools is like cutting police, fire or ambulance service – not something that makes our community attractive to the people and businesses that we are hoping will help us out of this recession/depression.

  45. November 8, 2009 at 7:24 pm | permalink

    Steve–the vote is over. It is time to start thinking about what we are going to do with what we got. Can we move to positive suggestions, ideas and options?

  46. November 8, 2009 at 10:55 pm | permalink

    Gary, the vote may be over, but the same issues remain. I do not believe that our community can make sound choices about what to cut in our schools, and what to keep, if we hold on to the corrosive notion that our schools are something “out there,” which we have little interest in and influence over and bring no benefit to us unless we happen to have a child in school.

    Investing in schools is investing in our community. We need to approach the problem with that in mind, or we risk doing great damage. And I don’t think we can repeat this too often. There is so much at stake!

  47. By Cosmonican
    November 8, 2009 at 11:59 pm | permalink

    #45, #46: Maybe the place to start with some new thinking in the schools is at the top, we the citizens. Elect a school board that will provide true oversight, new people all from outside of the education industry who can look at what’s going on with fresh eyes, and throw in some outright skeptics and bomb-tossers for good measure.

    Seventy years ago my grandmother was president of the school board of a city twice the size of Ann Arbor. She was a housewife with no higher education, but she knew a shell game when she saw one, and was loud enough and aggressive enough to do something about it, and she kept getting reelected. An example in our local schools that I can cite, that she would have hated (I’ll have to be a little circumspect or they’ll rat me out): there is a local classroom that has a bulletin board, but instead of some cork, and notes with pins, they have a 50″ flat screen TV hooked up to a DVD player which all day long scrolls through the classroom doings — I dare anyone to justify that, it’s not even a video class.

  48. November 9, 2009 at 6:46 am | permalink

    #46: Steve — I’ve seen no evidence of a “corrosive” influences except in your comments. What I have seen is a concern over the effectiveness of the current expenditures. I don’t think that your setting up “straw men” is going to contribute to any progress. Maybe you are part of what “Cosmonican-#47″ sees as wrong with the system.

  49. November 9, 2009 at 7:38 pm | permalink

    So… Saying that I believe that good schools are good for our kids and our community, and that investing in our schools will help us in the long run – this is “corrosive”?

    Whereas calls from the millage opponents to “starve the beast” were not?

    I’m calling on our community to draw on the best of ourselves in this time of crisis, and not the worst in ourselves. No “straw men” here, just an honest appeal for my fellow citizens to remember that we are all part of a community, and that tending to our community is crucial to keeping this a good place to live.

  50. November 9, 2009 at 9:38 pm | permalink

    Steve–I re-read your comments and apologize. I apparently was reading something that was not there. Your positions are forceful but not corrosive.

    I still think that a wiser course would be to begin working with the budget that we have rather than lamenting the one that got away. As I said in an earlier comment, if I can see “bang for the buck” I’ll join you next time.

  51. By Tim Hofer
    November 9, 2009 at 10:52 pm | permalink

    Part of my job is to recruit talented highly educated professionals to the area from the coastal cities. Exactly the people Michigan needs if it is going to make any comeback at all.

    One of the principle successful arguments we have used is that here, unlike some coastal cities, there are excellent public schools, reflecting a strong community commitment to education. That argument is rapidly losing force with the multi-year cuts in education funding we have seen.

    Michigan is in the middle of pack in terms of state funding for education but close to last in keeping up funding over the past 5-7 years. We are on a trajectory to rapidly join the cellar dwellars in the deep south. For the type of transformation Michigan is hoping to make to high tech and biomedical industry, those businesses will not succeed with the dull output of a cheap mediocre educational system.

    The Ann Arbor Public Schools have cut millions of dollars over the past decade and have had a structural cut to their budget since prop. A passed. Many of the non-core enhancement programs in music, arts and athletics that distinguish the schools on the national stage are already funded on the backs of student fundraising and from the parents. It is so easy to say that there is “lots of fat” but that is not much of an argument and even less of a solution. Those who think so should get out their business skills and get involved to help find ways to make less go further.

    It is however clear that we must move on. The PTOs of politically influential districts need to coordinate lobbying the state to fix its broken school funding mechanism. Here in Ann Arbor businesses and individuals need to do what they can perhaps by supporting the AA Educational Foundation or sponsoring “community resource” opportunities for students to replace some of the exciting educational programs that will be lost.

    What is equally clear is that we can not continue penalizing the schools for whatever we think they are not doing for us by slowly asphyxiating them, just to see how little oxygen they can survive on. That is a strategy for a loser.

  52. November 10, 2009 at 7:54 am | permalink

    The schools right now have more money per student than just 2 years ago. Their budget has grown more than 50 million dollars in less than 6 years. I don’t understand how this is corrosive, asphyxiating, or anything of the like. The school population is decreasing, and yet the funding has risen. The schools receive much more money per student than the national average. If a school system that receives more money than others rated higher complains that they don’t have enough, shouldn’t they figure out why they need more money when others do better with less?

  53. By ChuckL
    November 10, 2009 at 6:03 pm | permalink

    People should consider this: if AAPS has a structural deficit, why did the AAPS go ahead with the construction of Skyline?

  54. By Stephen Brown
    November 11, 2009 at 8:24 pm | permalink

    I’m concerned that no one has identified any particular “waste” and “overspending” in the current AAPS budget. Can anyone who opposed this millage identify such a line item? If not, these arguments appear more “faith-based” than empirical. My instincts are to ask the teachers themselves-in other words, which parts of the administration over-burden support their mission, and which do not? What would they cut, to least compromise their ability to teach their students? Of course this is a terrible time to ask for more money, but the schools are our future–especially the human talent represented by the many dedicated teachers I have known, vs. the physical plant.

  55. November 11, 2009 at 10:47 pm | permalink

    #54: Stephen, Turn your question around. What value would the increase add to the education of our children? What line item would be increased? How would that benefit the children?

    However, I’d like to complement you on your idea of letting the teachers make specific proposals for cost reduction. That is a positive step in the right direction.

  56. By Paul Barden
    November 14, 2009 at 11:20 am | permalink

    No new taxes until some fundamental changes are made. Replace pensions with defined contribution retirement plans like the vast majority of public sector jobs.
    Eliminate tenure and pay for performance.
    Overhaul health care plans to be more like private sector plans

  57. By yet another
    November 14, 2009 at 4:32 pm | permalink

    Please, let’s not further encourage a race to the bottom among people who work for a living. If we continually ask non-management employees to adjust their standards downward based on those who earn less, then, in logical conclusion, we’ll eventually wind up aking folks to compete with dollar-a-day wages found in some rather less than democatic countries.

    The better question is how to bring up salaries/wages/benefits for most of the rest of the population so that it’s on par (or better) with what our local teachers now receive. That is, rather than feeling resentment or envy over the teachers’ total employment package, let’s instead ask why everyone else doesn’t get that now. As it is, what teachers receive as compensation still falls beneath living standards in some Western European countries.

    Why cripple teachers’ existing health and pension plans? Coverage through private sector health care plans is in freefall — an ongoing state of collapse in terms of what you get for what you pay, and it’s going to get worse with or without the wimpy federal reform legislation. Upstairs in Canada, a non-union, career broom sweeper receives better overall health care for far less than most everyone stateside. And pensions are essential — for nearly everyone, not just teachers — since social security and Medicare presently do not come close to covering retirement needs.

    We won’t maintain an efficient, high-quality school system by bringing down living standards for teachers, or trying to bust their unions for that matter.

  58. November 14, 2009 at 10:56 pm | permalink

    #57-”Yet Another”>>Brilliant!! Let’s solve our immediate budgetary cash shortfalls by increasing the pay/benefits/remuneration of everyone everywhere. With that kind of thinking it is no mystery why you use a pseudonym to “sign” your comments.

  59. By jcp2
    November 15, 2009 at 6:42 am | permalink

    I don’t think that artificially inflating wages/benefits was the point of #57. The long term answer to increasing wages/benefits will be related to increasing American worker productivity across the board so that American goods and service are competitive with the offerings from other countries. Part of that will be education, part of that will be infrastructure, part of that will be deciding what to do with those that cannot to keep up.

  60. November 16, 2009 at 12:09 am | permalink

    #59-JCP2: Sure sounded like “yet another” was arguing for deferring action on school expenses to me. In any event, gumming up the necessary decisions with selective macro-level comparisons does nothing resolve the issues we confront. It is a waste of electrons.