School leaders react to Proposal 1 defeat

By: Thomas Franz | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published May 13, 2015


CLINTON TOWNSHIP— It came as no surprise to Chippewa Valley Schools administrators that Proposal 1 failed in a statewide vote on May 5.

The complicated nature of the bill, uncertainty of where funding would be directed, and mistrust of Lansing government were blamed for reasons why administrators thought the bill failed.

“I think there’s a mistrust of the lawmakers in general,” Chippewa Valley school board President Frank Bednard said. “I think that’s what was brought forward (May 5) in the vote.”

Statewide, 80 percent of voters voted against the bill. In Macomb County, 87 percent voted down the proposal.

Although the proposal was largely intended to create added revenue for road projects, it also had several items regarding funding for schools.

The proposal stated that it would raise the state sales tax from 6 to 7 percent to replace and supplement reduced revenue to the School Aid Fund caused by the elimination of the sales tax on gasoline purchases.

In addition, the proposal’s ballot language stated that it would increase the portion of tax to the School Aid Fund, while expanding the use of the School Aid Fund to community colleges and prohibiting the use of the School Aid Fund for four-year colleges and universities.

Chippewa Valley Superintendent Ron Roberts said that the proposal would have been good for public schools, but there was no guarantee how the money would specifically be spent.

“I think the proposal was good for schools in that it limited the use of the School Aid Fund,” Roberts said. “It also increased the predicted level of funding to the fund, which is important to us. There was nothing in the proposal that indicated how that specific money would be specifically used for schools, but increasing the funding level and protecting it, that was good for public schools.”

The lack of knowing where the money would be spent made Bednard uneasy about the proposal.

“There was no guarantee that the money was going make it all the way down. There was nothing established for what Chippewa Valley schools would get from passing Proposal 1. It was all up to the politicians for how they wanted to dole it out,” Bednard said. “We at Chippewa Valley know that we’ve been on the low end of the totem pole when it comes to funding for many years.”

Roberts and Bednard said that because of the uncertainty of what funding would have come to the district if Proposal 1 passed, plans for next year’s budget would have gone unaffected by the passing of the proposal.

“It was not clear if it was coming to Chippewa Valley schools or not, so we couldn’t make any determinations of the funding because there was no clear guidance given to what was meant for the school districts. Nothing will change. We’ll still move forward with our budget for next school year due next month,” Bednard said.

“Going forward, we’re concerned just with the School Aid Fund and making sure that it’s used for school aid,” Roberts added.

Voters and local leaders alike stated that if the proposal was solely focused on road funding, it would have had a much better chance at getting passed.

“I think like everyone else, we would like some more clarity,” Bednard said. “This is what we’ve heard from our constituents: If they want to do something for roads, do it; if they want to (do) something for schools and education funding, that should be a bill on it’s own. It shouldn’t be tied to other things.”

“I think that if they come and say that we’ll do this and it will be 100 percent funding for roads and roads only, I think it would pass overwhelmingly. People want the roads to be better, but to tie it in with all of these other issues, they just didn’t trust it or understand it.”