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Posted on Sun, Apr 24, 2011 : 8:17 a.m.

Renewing special ed millage will help all students in Washtenaw County

By Letters to the Editor

We are writing to express support for your editorial supporting renewal of the special education tax millage, a tax equal on an annual basis to about .05% (one twentieth of one percent) of the market value of homes.

As parents of a daughter who attends Ann Arbor public schools and of a recent graduate, we are very grateful for the opportunities the schools have given both our daughters. They were able to study with energetic and committed teachers, to take challenging classes, and to learn with and from students of diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds.

The fact that both Pioneer and Huron high schools have repeatedly won awards for being among the best five or six high schools in the United States in music education, and that one high school has even been judged to have the best high school music program in the country, is just one of many indications of the extraordinary quality of the Ann Arbor public school system.

Recent and proposed cutbacks in state funding threaten the ability of the schools to provide this high level of education.

Over the past few years class sizes have already expanded and staffing levels have been stretched thin. A failure to adopt the millage is likely to seriously damage the ability of the schools to provide necessary services both to special education students and to other students, since by law the public schools must fund special education programs, even at the expense of making cuts elsewhere.

Renewing the millage is one way that Washtenaw County residents can maintain the quality of local schools. We hope that the citizens of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County will take the time to vote “yes” on May 3rd to renew this critical millage.

Eli and Caroline Nathans
Ann Arbor



Thu, Apr 28, 2011 : 8:21 p.m.

Another "way" Washtenaw County residents can maintain great schools is to have all school salary costs come back in line with what the residents themselves can afford. Vote No.


Thu, Apr 28, 2011 : 3:29 p.m.

Governments and Public Unions have not pitched in in this down economy. For the first time, I would like to see teachers hammer the Union Leadership and actually keep teachers instead of firing them and taking larger salaries for those that remain. Vote No.

Stuart Brown

Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 7:08 a.m.

The kids in Ann Arbor will be alright whether this millage passes or not. This is not a special needs millage since state law mandates the level of service special needs students receive. This vote is a fraud; voting for this millage will have no effect on funding for special needs students in Washtenaw County. Fire administrators, not teachers, not bus drivers and not janitors by dissolving the 10 WISD school systems and replacing them with one county wide system.

Stuart Brown

Tue, Apr 26, 2011 : 2:51 a.m.

I have one special needs student (ADHD) who has consistently gotten the shaft; I am not impressed with the special needs services my child has received. What's the problem with getting rid of non-value added administrators? Teachers, bus drivers and janitors have a real impact on the quality of experience school kids receive. If we can use the current environment to ensure a higher proportion of education dollars reach actual students, why not do it now?

John B.

Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 11:19 p.m.

Huh? How many children do you have in the Washtenaw County Public School System? Do you even live in the district?

Lisa Starrfield

Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 2:22 a.m.

Most of the children served by this millage will go on to be productive members of society thanks to the support they receive in school. I've had the great pleasure over the years of working with students in my classroom who have/had special needs. They were no more of a behavior problem than my regular students, no more of a burden and just as likely to be a great joy. But even those who won't grow up to be self sufficient (or won't make it to adulthood at all), they are still people, still children and they deserve a chance to learn to the best of their ability, to socialize to the best of their ability and to enjoy life. At Clague, we have an amazing elective performing arts program for students from both the mainstream classes and self contained class. We have peer mentoring programs where students serve as mentors for some of our special education students. Both programs are hugely popular and I think my students will tell you that they have gained a lot for themselves. Many have expressed interest in becoming special ed. teachers or speech therapists. I was fortunate early in my teaching career to have a young lady in my class a few hours a day with cerebral palsy who was cognitively and physically impaired. She was placed in my class for socialization with her same age peers spending most of her day one on one or in a young classroom. She didn't learn much in my room but she had a great time and boy, did we learn from her. My students were scared at first but a bit of information about why she was in a wheelchair ended that fear. She made us laugh and we loved her. But she was frail. Oh so frail. She would get sick and miss weeks of school at a time due to repeated hospitalizations. My students worried for her. When she died six months later, it broke everyone's heart but we were grateful for our time with her. It's been almost a decade since she died and I still remember her smile, her laugh. I am certain her friends do as well.

Marshall Applewhite

Sun, Apr 24, 2011 : 5:24 p.m.

As long as the MEA continues to continues to operate itself like a group of petulant children, I can't imagine voters passing another education millage.

Lisa Starrfield

Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 8:48 p.m.

What agitators?

Marshall Applewhite

Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 4:53 a.m.

@Lisa You seem to be putting words into my mouth. I never said anything about special ed teachers being overpaid, or even teachers in general (though legacy costs are unsustainable). My gripe is with the way the MEA operates. Bringing union agitators from Detroit into our schools last week? I'm sorry, but that isn't exactly palatable to the general public of Ann Arbor. I don't see anything passing until they begin to operate like reasonable adults.

Lisa Starrfield

Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 1:59 a.m.

Yeah because standing up for schools, children and teacher is petulant but how dare we ask you to keep paying that extra $100 a year to make sure those greedy special ed teachers can do their job properly!


Sun, Apr 24, 2011 : 4:05 p.m.

I agree with debling that some students should be placed in "special schools." I also think that some comments here should be placed on "special discussion boards."

Lisa Starrfield

Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 1:43 a.m.

The only students who belong in 'special schools' are those who cannot function and learn in a mainstreamed classroom or in a self-contained classroom in a traditional school.


Sun, Apr 24, 2011 : 3 p.m.

The best way to help "all students" is to make sure special education students get the help they need in "special schools". You would know this if your child had an autistic or behaviorally challenged child in their class, continuously distrupting the teacher and slowing the learning of everyone else. Our educational system has fixated on aiming to be mediocre. No wonder the Chinese and European students are killing us in science and math. The solution is not more money, but rather a different system.

Tony Livingston

Wed, Apr 27, 2011 : 10:01 p.m.

Funny. My daughter recieves special education support and the one thing she hates is being in a class full of disruptive kids. Some of them my be in special ed, but most of them aren't. Try being in a class with several USA hockey team members.

Lisa Starrfield

Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 2:03 a.m.

Stunshlf, I've seen 'normal' kids swear constantly at adults at school and I've seen them do the other behavior you objected to. Which is worse?

Lisa Starrfield

Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 1:42 a.m.

You need to understand that 'normal' students can be every bit as disruptive or behind (or more so) than mainstreamed special education students. In fact, its rare that the biggest behavior problem for a teacher is a special education student because we have supports in place to assist with behavior for them. In your imagined world, can I remove the normal kids who enjoy disrupting class and bullying their peers or just the one's struggling to control their behavior because of a disability?


Sun, Apr 24, 2011 : 10:24 p.m.

Nonsense, the solution is good behavior support, by qualified staff. Lack of BCBA suport makes your attitude possible.


Sun, Apr 24, 2011 : 4:17 p.m.

my son was on the track team with an autistic boy who would loudly curse at the coach and fondle himself as he ran the 1600 meter run. We all knew why he was doing this but the opposing team would stare in disbelief because they had no clue he was autistic.

Mark Reed

Sun, Apr 24, 2011 : 2:47 p.m.

We can ill afford to pass this foolish tax burden ! Vote NO! We must not be punished twice for the same tax ! If the State and Federal Goverment cut funding then schools must also make the same cuts ! Our homes are worthless and grossly over taxed, The average American has taken a 30% wage cut and or unemployed altogether, we have suffered major reduction in medical care, yet big buisness and the wealthy get tax cuts ! The school admin saw fit to drive imports and not support American workers, they never raised a hand when our jobs were being sent over sea's, now it's your turn to share the pain as our wealthy politicians like to say. VOTE NO ! do not allow these self serving Yahoo's guilt you into something foolish!


Sun, Apr 24, 2011 : 4:50 p.m.

Congrats Mark. There are many factually-challenged posts on this site but I think you broke the record for most errors in a single comment. No wonder you see special education as a "foolish tax burden."


Sun, Apr 24, 2011 : 2:05 p.m.

I understand the desire to help special ed students, but how about we add a 0.05% tax on homes to help the gifted students also? (If it weren't for the teachers' unions, I would be up for increasing my taxes a lot more for education)

Lisa Starrfield

Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 2:24 a.m.

Joe, I would love to see more gifted services in Ann Arbor but unfortunately, they are not mandated by law and we've had to cut so much from our budget that I don't think it likely. Of course, your contention that you would pay for except for my union seems silly. My union is not funded in any way by student funding or milages.

Neal Elyakin

Sun, Apr 24, 2011 : 12:34 p.m.

I agree. The WISD special education millage renewal vote on May 3rd is a vote to support all children in our schools. Supporting this millage renewal will continue to allow our school districts to maintain needed special services to over 7,000 students in all ten school districts, including those students who attend charter schools, private schools, and home schools. Decreasing state aid and property tax revenue is hurting all school districts. This renewal of only 0.985 mills will help all our school districts maintain their mandated special education services without dipping even more into the general education fund, which is already being hit by the reduced state aid and lower property tax revenues. Excellent programs like those described by the Nathans in their opinion are what brings people to Ann Arbor. Failure of this millage will affect the school district's ability to maintain that level of excellence. I urge support for this millage renewal, for all our children. Please vote on May 3, 2011; and vote YES on the WISD special education millage renewal.


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 1:20 a.m.

I'll be voting no, thank you very much ! Good Day

Mark Reed

Sun, Apr 24, 2011 : 2:48 p.m.

Vote NO! Enough is enough!