Rep. Darany Visits Geer Park Elementary to Hear Concerns on Education Cuts
Parents and students were invited Monday to ask questions about how state education funding cuts affect them, and what they can do to persuade legislators to restore funds.
State Rep. George Darany (D-Dearborn), along with several Dearborn Public Schools union and PTA leaders, held a town hall meeting Monday afternoon at Geer Park Elementary in order to encourage dialogue between parents, students and legislators about statewide education funding cuts.
In Dearborn, those cuts amounted to $3 million in general funds, as well as $7 million in at-risk and bilingual educations funds. The district, as a result, was forced to use teacher layoffs, as well as across-the-board pay cuts, to balance their budget.
“In troubled times, education is finding itself in trouble as well financially,” said Principal Andrea Awada. “But we don’t give up hope. I am very hopeful because there are individuals out there who care about education … and people who will fight for those assets we have: our very, very precious children.”
Rep. Darany–along with Dearborn Federation of School Employees President Roger Bartles and Dearborn Federation of Teachers President Chris Sipperly–encouraged students and parents to ask questions about the funding cuts.
“Rarely do I get the opportunity to speak to students directly,” Darany told the students. “I know that it seems like Lansing is a world away, but it really isn’t. It’s important to remember that the decisions we make in Lansing directly impact you in your classrooms.
“I came here today to listen to you and to listen to your parents,” he added, “to see what I can do to make your school better.”
The students had plenty to ask about, questioning Darany and union leaders as to why cuts were being made, where the money is going and how it affects their classrooms.
“When cuts are made to your schools, they make it hard for your teachers to get the books and materials you need to learn,” Darany told students.
Several students spoke up that they had talked about the per-pupil funding in their classrooms, taking time to calculate how much money was lost on a per-classroom basis. The figure they came up with, students said, was somewhere around $10,000.
Though little has changed on the front of school budget cuts, Darany urged parents and teachers–with prodding from their children–to continue to put pressure on legislators and Gov. Rick Snyder to return money to education funding.
“We think there’s money they can give us back, so that’s why we’re having assemblies like this–to tell teachers, students and parents that we’re not giving up the fight,” Darany said. “We’re not taking no for an answer. We want our school money back.”
Dearborn Public Schools are poised to see a $2-million restoration of cuts, the board of education announced at their Sept. 12 meeting. That funding would be based on meeting "best practices" requirements set by the state. If that funding is restored, the district expects to restore a percentage of some pay cuts, as well as to hire new teachers.