Friday, April 22, 2005

Support Birmingham Schools - Support The Sinking Fund

As a member of the Birmingham Board of Education, I am dismayed at the level of half truths, misrepresentations, and lies being pushed by those opposing the sinking fund campaign. First, some truths: we enjoy the benefits of having one of the best school districts in the state because parents demand it, our children deserve it; our teachers believe it and our administration and support personnel work hard to maintain it. Over the last 10 years we have continued to improve operational efficiencies and our teachers have supported those efforts with their hard work and dollars. Nearly $8 million of saving achieved over the last three years along speaks to the effort in this area. However, the current school funding crisis keeps us on the "cutting path" and unless things change in Lansing, the funding crisis will reach further into our classrooms. Our administration, support personnel and teachers understand the challenges we face and have been significant partners in contributing to their healthcare costs while working to find less costly healthcare plans. Pension costs mandated by the state and social security taxes cannot be cut unless we eliminate the jobs that are tied together with them – an option that has the undesirable impact of increasing class sizes and reducing program options. Another truth not distorted, but which is curiously unmentioned by the no campaign, is the fact that our students place at the top of nearly every state or federal measure in performance – that alone speaks volumes about what the district and our students accomplish!

Personally, I see how our employees work, and more importantly I see how deeply they care about what they do. They earn every dollar of their pay. The no campaign would have you believe nearly everyone in the district is paid far more than what they actually get - the no campaign data is just plain wrong, deceiving and dishonest. In some cases they have misrepresented pay and total compensation by nearly 300%! This type of misrepresentation is either the result of lazy, dishonest, or ignorant analysis – none of which is or should be acceptable.

Yes, the sinking fund is a tax. But it is a small price to pay (less than a $100 per year per $200,000 of market value) to ensure that the Birmingham School District continues to offer program options and choices that set us apart from the pack. 100% of these funds will stay in our schools. Even residents that do not have children in the schools will benefit - just ask a real estate agent what the first or second priority of a home buyer is and I'll bet they say " Good Schools" - good schools translate into good property values, great schools help support everyone. Most importantly, a vote for the sinking fund ensures that our children have program and option choices beyond the basic building blocks of reading, writing and arithmetic.

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