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Posted on Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 3:28 p.m.

Ann Arbor state reps want to see $1B surplus aimed at education

By Danny Shaw

The exact amount of Michigan’s state budget surplus may be uncertain, but Ann Arbor state representatives are thinking about where it came from and how to spend it.

The surplus — which could top $1 billion — is being calculated, in part, based on a report last week by the Senate Fiscal Agency. It will be used by state officials to help come up with a consensus revenue forecast on Jan. 13.

Funneling money back into the state’s education system is the primary concern for Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor.


Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor

“The first thing that comes to mind is that my Republican colleagues made a mistake in cutting K-12 education,” Irwin said. “It’s clear the magnitude of the cuts weren’t necessary.”

According to Irwin, over $1 billion has been taken from the Michigan education system and he said the surplus should go directly back into school funding.

“I’ve been frustrated with reallocation of education dollars,” Irwin said. “Michigan’s future is dependent upon the education system. It was taken from K-12 and needs to be put back into it.”

Before serious planning for the surplus can start, Rep. Mark Ouimet, R-Scio Township, would like to see the exact dollar amount, but also wants to see allocations for the education system.

“We have to wait and see what exactly is there,” Ouimet said. “In general, making sure education gets additional funding certainly is one area of concern.”

Ouimet said the tough decisions in Lansing over the last year are what led to the surplus and that proves the decisions were the right ones.

“We have a truly balanced budget,” he said. “The game plan the governor laid out here in the last year is working. It shows Michigan is open for business.”

For Rep. David Rutledge, D-Superior Township, some of the surplus might not be excess dollars, but possibly a miscalculation.

“I think that someone didn’t crunch the numbers properly and made poor projections,” Rutledge said. “Those assumptions and projections didn’t include that type of projected surplus.”

Rutledge said he would like to see more of a breakdown of the surplus dollars, which will be further analyzed in the coming weeks, but wants the state to set its sights on K-12 education.

“Let’s make sure our education system is the best it can be,” he said. “Let’s stimulate education in amazing ways.”



Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 9:51 p.m.

silly you, we all know they will find ways to waste our money


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 8:39 p.m.

how about paying for those extended unemployment benefits and the 18 Billion dollar gap in public employee pension shortfalls? Irwin needs to understand that it is not a surplus until all the debt is gone. this is the same logic the UAW used when negotiating 5,000 dollar bonuses from GM while GM still owes the taxpayers 26 Billion dollars. I was raised to pay my debts but I guess that's "old school" and maybe we should go back to those "old school" days when kids got a pretty good basic education and most folks did their jobs without complaining or crying about every little thing.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 5:26 p.m.

Gee lets see how that extra TAX dollar would be spent...Administration 60 cents ... golden parachutes 30 cents ..facilities 8 cents ( maybe ) kids 1 cent....yup great use of our money...once the velcro hand of any one who lives off your $$$ gets in your pocket it's almost impossible to get out, it goes all the way down your pantleg to the floor then back up again to see what it missed....


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 5:08 p.m.

Here you define both parties. Democrat wants to spend projected income now and Republican says lets make a decision when the money is actually there. There are fundamental problems that need to be addressed. MESSA as the insurance company of choice is a conflict of interest. The practice of 30 and out for a full pension. Allowing teachers unions to buy "time" to raise their pensions value among them. Not all school districts are as wasteful and Ann Arbor though so one size may not fit all.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 2:03 p.m.

Before these funds are dished out to any particular group, I would like a complete and thorough audit of each. In my opinion, there seems to be a great deal of waste in all city, state, federal, schools, etc. As for AAPS , if they can afford to hire another administrator at a high salary, and then increase two more administrators to be equal the new, they don't need any further funding. If going to teachers to teach, would agree. Most importantly of all, I would suggest that any surplus be put away for a rainy day, and even possibly lowering the taxes for the citizens of Michigan. In my opinion, I believe that all governments feel "entitled" to spend on whatever, then just raise the taxes of the citizens. It just needs to stop.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 5:30 a.m.

I know many more cops and firefighters who have lost their jobs over the last 3 years or have taken pay,benefit etc cuts than teachers have lost their jobs/taken cuts. Infact in the last three years I have known many teachers (including my wife, several friends and a couple of cousins) who work for various districts state wide, still get their step raises, educational incentive raises, cost of living raises and no increases in benefit contributions. My last five years (out of 16 and counting) as a cop I have netted a total of a 0%, 0%, 0% 0% and you guessed it 0% raise PLUS ever increasing contribution to my medical insurance, so technically I have had negative "raises" lol. On top of that there have been lay offs and position freezes that have dropped my dept's staff from mid 50's in the early 1990's to mid 30's today. IF the money has to be spent (and I say IF becuase this is all our Tax money that we had already paid and it should be refunded) the state needs to sock most of it away for a rainier day (they will come), I dont mind returning some to education if it goes for technology/equipement, but NOT for staff/pay or benefits. Then return some to the communities that have had to cut public saftey drastically over the last 5 years.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 3:27 a.m.

If there is a big surplus, how about eliminating some of those tax increases to retirees that start Jan 1, 2012? Obviously, those tax increases to retirees weren't needed. Plenty of money in the budget including a big surplus.

Marshall Applewhite

Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 12:18 a.m.

The pension tax increases for retirees are here to stay. As the population ages and the baby boom generation becomes a larger and larger percentage of the population, we simply cannot rely solely on people under 60 to fund government.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 3:13 a.m.

What Irwin says: More money for education! What Irwin really means: We will tax and tax, spend and spend, elect and re-elect. Surprisingly this practice actually works for Ann Arbor politicians. Bottom Line: We have nobody to blame but ourselves if we end up with the likes of Irwin.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

Can you back up your ad hominem attack against Irwin with any facts?


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 3:02 a.m.

He'll probably use the money for golf outings for his business partners.

Stephen Landes

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 2:59 a.m.

Typical Democrat knee-jerk reaction -- see money, spend money; no thought given to whether or not the money should be saved (e.g.: rebuilding the rainy day fund) or returned to its source: all of us taxpayers! The State is in the process of getting all local units of government including schools to look long and hard at the way they do business to see what efficiencies they can find by changing structures, reducing overhead, working together, and assessing whether or not what they do is really necessary. To turn around and just give them more money before this process has even gone through one iteration is foolish and wasteful.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 2:35 a.m.

I for one would be very happy to see some of the money go for education. To do 1 thing and only 1 thing. Hire more teachers in K-6. No other use should be allowed for the money. No new "tashma-sports", no more administrator raises, no more consultants, no more travel funds for junkets, etc. Spend it only in opening classrooms to reduce class size and improve results for the children.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 2:03 a.m.

The dollars should go back into education, and most importantly pre-school and is where you catch the troubled and the opportunity to light the fire for success...high schooler and even middle schoolers are set for their course...waste of money to bail them...lets get them in the formative years...more teachers and more creative programs to trap thier young brains.

Lifelong A2

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 1:28 a.m.

Rep. Ouimet -- who gives credit to Gov. Snyder for this surplus -- doesn't know what he's talking about. This surplus exists because the auto industry is booming: it's paying bonuses to workers, hiring suppliers, hiring new blue-collar and white-collar workers , and putting existing workers on overtime. All of that generates income tax revenue. That boom began before Snyder even took office. That's why we're also seeing a surplus from LAST fiscal year, which covers the period before Snyder even took office. The SOLE credit for this surplus goes to the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress who passed the auto industry rescue package and cash-for-clunkers program. The Tea Party Republicans who populate's comment pages may not like those programs for ideological reasons, but the fact is: those programs worked.

Marshall Applewhite

Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 12:11 a.m.

Wasn't it Bush who signed the Auto bailout bill?


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 2:25 a.m.

Auto sales are up from last year. The auto bailout was very good for Mexican and Canadian based parts suppliers. Not so good for the employees of the now closed Willow Run Transmission plant. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the number of auto workers in Michigan did rise from 34,900 in 2010 to 36,700 in November of 2011. Which is down from almost 40,000 in 2009. Does Pres. Obama get SOLE credit for the overall decline as well?


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 12:55 a.m.

I'm a teacher. Worked in Michigan now I live and teach in Boise. The old teachers and the retired teachers pay was obscene. They take on a bunch of OT and retire based on a $100k salary a year. If you have two teachers together they end up living in a McMansion and raking in a $80k a year in pensions. plus they have $500k plus in annuities. I went to school in a Michigan public high. The cronyism and union racket was disgusting. maybe 1/4 of the teachers did very little teaching. They are like the UAW workers who screwed future generations of people who would need work by sleeping on the job, drinking on breaks, punching in- going home- then coming back in to punch out. New Michigan teachers make much less (as they should), the few new plant workers make a tiny fraction. Things have changed but all the old teachers and UAW goons who - along with the greedy jerks on Wall street, in the medical racket, and on the take politicians have cashed out leaving a little meat on the bone for the rest of us. When i taught in Michigan I couldn't believe all the gripping from old teachers because they were only getting a 2% raise and had to give up concessions to their health care. That when masses of people in Michigan are out of work or struggling on part time jobs. I make half of what a teacher in Michigan would make but I get buy and I do a good job. I'm happy to have a job and all the teachers i work with are happy to have a job, work really hard and get by. That's the way people in the rest of the country live. Politicians are all the same. The democrats want to gauge the people for their constituents (union members), the republicans want to gauge the people for their backers (wall street, big pharma, the super rich, et.)


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 2:38 p.m.

So you think all teachers have it easy? My wife is a teacher. Her raises were deferred until the end of the year. She now contributes more towards retirement and benefits (although this was probably a good thing aligning the job with the private industry). Her salary is at least 1/2 of what people in private industry are earning with a Masters degree. She has 3 separate classes for which to prepare each day, grade homework, prepare test, grade test, help struggling students, confer with parents, and deal with the administration. She has upto 39 kids in the classroom. (Imagine having 39 direct employees with no one under you to assist, no one in management has that level of supervision requirement.) She has a Masters degree but must still continue her education to maintain her teaching certification at her own cost. She is in the classroom over an hour before the students and over an hour after the students. She works at home each night and on the weekends. I don't want to hear how all teachers have it easy.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 2:07 p.m.

Teachers do not get paid for overtime. Working evenings and weekends is part of the job.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 7:08 a.m.

You do not know what you're talking about. Please produce your sources regarding 'old' teachers. Overtime and $100,000 salaries? What a joke. My sister retired after teaching for 35 years and her last salary was $58,000. (She has two Master's degrees). Her pension? A little less than 1/3 of that. She still lives in the 3 bedroom bungalow she and her husband purchased when they got married. Hardly a "McMansion". Produce some evidence, or don't speak of what you do not know. By the way, I just paid a plumber $ 75.00 an hour to fix our faucets. I'm not complaining.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 3:35 a.m.

Bravo! You are absolutely correct that the cronies cashed out and "got theirs" while leaving crumbs for everyone else.

Mike K

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 1:36 a.m.

Thanks for your testimonial. I came to Michigan in 1991 and instantly noticed what I called "union mentality" or what I now recognize as entitlement. It was a total shocker. I would disagree with your general characterization of "republicans" though. This whole "big" corporation, "rich" schtick comes from the demogogues on the left. I know more regular everyday (non union) folks you claim to be republican.

Doctor Fang

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 12:43 a.m.

Go, Jeff, go! Thanks for supporting our schools & kids. As a parent of an elementary-age child, I've seen our schools gutted in the past few years, with class sizes skyrocketing -- my son has 50% more kids in his classroom this year than he did three years ago. Most of the available "fat" was trimmed a few years ago, and the latest round of cuts started to eviscerate the essentials to successful education. I applaud your efforts.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 5:47 p.m.

Gutted? Really?


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 3:31 a.m.

Totally agree. Classes are huge all around the district, at the expense of all students.

Marshall Applewhite

Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 11:59 p.m.

Oh man! A pile of money! Let's make sure to spend it immediately!


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 11 p.m.

Let's eliminate all waste, fraud, and abuse from the Pentagon before we cut any more funding to schools. And stop going to war for the profit of Haliburton and Cheney.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 11 p.m.

Just the beginning. The money is going to business owners - those already in operation, and to attract others into the state, to make their fortunes at the expense of us, the average Joe. We have a governor and legislature that has structured everything to the benefit of business owners & business people at the expense of the middle class, education, retirees, state government services, public safety, infrastructure and the poor. The new MBT will continue the windfall to Crabby Rick Snyderton and his ilk, at the expense of us, the everyday Michigan citizen. Here's your first sign of what is coming and, when put to the ethical smell test, it is really starting to stink.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 5:47 p.m.

Most small business owners are the average Joe. I don't know where the mentality came from that all business owners are wealthy, but it is terribly incorrect - as well as ignorant. Businesses have, in fact, been very overtaxed, which kept Michigan at the very bottom of the barrel in terms of being business friendly. Something needed to be done. Most small business owners work long hours and many make less than you appear to think.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 1:51 a.m.

Next time you or someone you know, is looking for a job; who will you ask to hire you? A school teacher? Who pays the taxes that fund public education? Do not answer school teachers or police, they collect alot more in wages and benefits from tax payers than they pay into the system. BTW its employers and private sector employees that pay a large portion of the taxes.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 10:58 p.m.

sounds like irwin is drinking the kool aid...this money was taken away from the wasteful spending of our k12 system. why would we give it all back to them? we need new jobs, not hiring the same ol teacher union job pool.

Jeff Irwin

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 8:06 p.m.

My point about how K-12 money was "taken away" from schools is simply that Proposal A directed certain tax revenues - mostly sales tax - to the School Aid Fund for K-12 education. In this year's budget, my Republican colleagues moved all of higher education funding out of the General Fund and into the School Aid Fund. The School Aid Fund had never been raided like this before. The net result of that reallocation was a little over $1 billion less for K-12 and most of the money needed to fund a $1.8 billion tax cut for owners of LLC's and s-corporations. How the school districts spend those dollars, on new teachers or keeping others, is the business of the elected school boards across the state.

Basic Bob

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 12:44 p.m.

Irwin won't hire a single new teacher with than billion dollars, only distribute it among the 14 thousand or so already there. And half of that will go to administrators.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 10:21 p.m.

I think if it goes to education, it needs to be in the form of shop classes. Not everyone is meant for college and I feel if we lifted those off the botton with some sort of tech education that money would be well spent.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 10:06 p.m.

Noot all schools are perfect, not all schools are wasteful. Many of the schools in oour state function very well and have reduced cost significantly. It's time to put our money where our governor's mout is. If education is the key to our future,building our future knowedge indsutry then we must invest in it. If not the best and the briggest will not stay and help build Michigan's future

Mike K

Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 9:55 p.m.

I am not going to argue against education spending as long as it is indeed well spent, but this is nothing more than catering to one's constituency. Obama was raving on about police, firefighters and teachers today in Ohio as if society is only composed of such occupations. Trust me, I am all for these necessities, but it has simply become political and that's the part I find appauling. As I have said in the past, investing in education has issues. Some, well actually many, simply do not value it, and it is portable. I relocated here in 1991 with my education from another state. Those tax payers received little value in education me.

Mike K

Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 7:27 p.m.

Lily's Mom, the hatred was not republican based. The propoganda from the left - "republicans are against the working guy" is where it is coming from. The fact of the matter is that all over America, public services are being cut due to deficit spending. Revenue is less than expenses. The solution is to rebuild the tax base. Commerce creates tax revenue. Commerce from the public sector. I have nothing against public sector employees. I will add though that we pay for them. The hatred is from the left. They hate Snyder. You need to point your fingers at the Democrats.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 6:58 a.m.

If I remember correctly, Mike K, it was the 2010 elections that brought in the 'new wave' of politicians whose first task was to demonize police officers, firefighters, teachers and nurses, all unions, of course. The hatred against our neighbors and friends who work in our communities was despicable. The 'right' was successful at pitting middle-class workers against each other for the benefit of their political agendas. Look at Wisconsin. It started there. I applaud President Obama for giving credit to public employees after they were eviscerated by the constant drumbeat of criticism by politicians. And, yes, it has become political. You need to point your finger at Republicans.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 9:37 p.m.

The Ann Arbor schools have more than enough money. Remember the story before the Holidays about two AAPS administrators getting 12%plus raises? Yet the schools are short of money? How about the story on how 17.7% of the school budget goes to pension funds for employees? A little much don't you think when most "For Profit Businesses" only allowed 15% of the budget for employee pay. Lower our taxes so if we want to contribute more to schools we can!


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 1:42 a.m.

Ahh...funding the schools through "trickle down" economics. Well, we see how well that has worked in the business sector.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 9:17 p.m.

I'd like to see most of it go to education. How about putting a bunch into our decaying infrastructure? Can't get to school when the bridge is out.

average joe

Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 9:13 p.m.

One would think 'they' won the lottery the way they are planning on spending it, wait- people who win the big lottery generally save some of it....


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 9:04 p.m.

YV, you have no idea what you are talking about. Our schools' funding has been cut and cut and cut over the last decade, has not come close to keeping up with inflation and increasing costs.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 2:29 a.m.

A2anon - If you go back thru the audits for the Ann Arbor School District for the last decade, you will find that this is the very first year that the actual funds to the district declined (total dollars available to spend). You can argue that one pot of money or another has declined, but the reality is that the total amount available only this year - for the first time declined. Now you can argue inflation, higher costs, etc. and I will buy some of that. But the reality is that district has stated they budget for a 5% annual increase in available funds, which is why the budgets for NEXT year always have to be cut.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 9:55 p.m.

Sorry, but I do. I have several family members in education, and a couple of them are completely overpaid administrators. It's established fact that school funding has been cut, but administrators are making more money than ever before while teachers are being laid off, class sizes are increasing and programs are being eliminated. The money needed for classrooms is being diverted to bloated administrations, in the schools, on school boards and in ISDs. Here's a perfect example, right in your own back yard: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> The money necessary is there, it's just not being allocated with any integrity.

Ron Granger

Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 9:03 p.m.

The state doesn't have a surplus - they have *our* money. The concept of returning that excess taxation to us is completely alien to them. They feel entitled to our money. The concept of not immediately spending the money is also alien to them. Save it for a rainy day? Also alien. What planet are they on?


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 9:01 p.m.

Not one additional penny should go to any public schools in this state until all the waste, fraud and mismanagement have been eliminated. Many districts are ridiculously top-heavy with administrators and other functionaries who spend, spend and spend some more in an effort to justify their existences. We have too many separate school boards and way too many school &quot;administrators.&quot; The failed efforts to mainstream children with severe emotional, behavioral and/or cognitive function problems into the same classrooms as kids without those problems, combined with a misguided and destructive emphasis on test scores, has rendered our public schools almost irrelevant. These problems need to be worked out or we will continue to pour money down a dark hole of futility. Our schools have more money than at any time in history, yet parents struggle to obtain basic services, ISDs fail to provide the intervention necessary to help kids with special problems, and teachers resort to spending their own money for supplies. All the while these schools are turning out kids who can't think their way out of a paper bag.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 3:44 p.m.

YV - Clearly you attend a different district than I do and I feel bad for your struggles. But just because your public school is doing a poor job doesn't mean public schools everywhere are. I think that is the biggest problem we have here on this site and in the state as a whole. In our effort to fix broken schools, we assume all schools have the same problems and need to be fixed the same way.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 3:40 a.m.

Sally, you are exactly right. Teachers are being asked to do the impossible and kids are not being educated because of administrative mismanagement. The solution is not to continue to throw money at a broken system. History has shown us that the money will be absorbed into salaries and expense accounts, and will do nothing to fix what's broken. Politics needs to be removed from the equation and the system needs to be fixed. Anyone unsure about the root causes of the problems we have with public education needs only to read this article: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> It's truly unbelievable.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 3:22 a.m.

&quot;The failed efforts to mainstream children with severe emotional, behavioral and/or cognitive function problems into the same classrooms as kids without those problems, combined with a misguided and destructive emphasis on test scores, has rendered our public schools almost irrelevant.&quot; Spend some time inside the classrooms and see that the overcrowded classes with 30+ elementary students and one teacher, and 40&quot; students in high school classes does not allow for those teachers to address the needs of regular ed students, let alone students with special needs. There are many self-contained classrooms around the district for the severely disabled students, who simply cannot participate in regular ed lessons and would lose out on individualized instruction. They are much better served in classes with special ed teachers who are trained to develop IEPs and lessons for each student and provide individual attention. Cutting the special ed assistant positions in recent years is very destructive to all classrooms, and many students with special needs do not receive adequate support services from these assistants because there are not enough of them. In addition, the special needs population in AAPS is increasing dramatically, including students coming to AA from other districts for services, creating an overcrowding situation for everyone.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 2:59 a.m.

Theodynus, at least if they were closed, they wouldn't be turning out kids who don't even know they aren't prepared for anything. Sh1..and yet, there's still money for administrator and superintendent raises.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 2 a.m.

You are incorrect that our schools have &quot;more money than at any time in history.&quot; Over the last five years, schools face unfunded federal mandates while the state has been cutting its allocation to K-12 schools. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 11:50 p.m.

I like the cut of your jib. Maybe we should just close the public schools entirely until they shape up!