Proposal 5 under controversy

8:05 PM, Oct 6, 2006   |    comments
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Grand Rapids - In our vote 2006 report we are taking a look at Proposal 5, the education funding initiative. Some people say this plan pits grandparents against their grandchildren. It would guarantee that state spending for public schools would increase along with the inflation rate. But some say the consequences would compromise our public health and safety. Frustration over public school funding cuts overflowed at a huge statehouse rally last year. It was here the seeds were planted for Proposition 5, the 5 point plan voters face next month. One that would immediately take a half billion dollars from the state budget and give it to schools. Rockford's School Superintendent is a leader in the group called the K-16 Coalition. Mike Shibler, who helped deliver thousands of petition signatures to the Secretary of State last spring, says that over the past 5 years, Rockford Schools have seen only a 1.6% increase in funding. “How are we supposed to be one of the driving engines of changing the state and economy providing solid skilled workforce, when districts are constantly making costs, because they're not even receiving the cost of living,” says Shibler. Opponents say public safety and public health, especially for the poor, will face inevitable cuts if Proposal 5 succeeds Kalamazoo County Administrator Don Gilmer says, “The legislature would be left with 2 options - either they could go out and raise taxes by 530 to 700 million dollars or they're gonna have to go into existing programs that are passed, except K-12 education.” A less known but hugely significant part of Proposition 5 would limit how much local school districts pay for teacher benefits, shifting the rest of the cost to the state. Critics call that a backdoor way to fund the retirement of M.E.A. members. Supporters say it's a response to Lansing's failure to address teacher benefit costs. The full half hour interview on Proposal can be seen Friday at 9:30p.m. on WGVU-TV.

Peter Ross

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