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Reality check

To the Editor:

On Tuesday, March 16, Grosse Pointe Public Schools want only some residents to vote in an election that could reach into every resident’s pocket for the next six years.

The school district does not want to ask voters to make that choice during the regularly scheduled voting time in June — when our “away-wintering” residents are back home again. No, Grosse Pointe Public Schools has decided to try and “tax-grab” extra monies to support an excessive spending habit.

The district’s rhetoric of shifting budgeted funds from building and site expenses to “monies for instructional purposes” should make a taxpayer’s hair stand on end. There have been no detailed plans for the school district to its residents on just what is specifically included in those “instructional purposes.” Instead of concentrating communication efforts to inform residents of exactly how the money would be spent, the school district prefers to scare parents with the horrors of what could be if the money is not acquired.

As you read further, you’ll notice that this is hardly a school district operating on a shoestring budget.

There is a constant mantra by the school district about “cutbacks in state funding.” Remember, previous cuts in school aid by the state have been restored to the tune of $6,700 per student. However, Grosse Pointe Public Schools, like other wealthier school districts, will have less money coming from the state — but that’s because we spend more than $9,700 per student. Also, this school district is not a fast-growing district — evidently, we have more of a flat-lined enrollment.

The state is favoring districts with declining enrollments. Can you imagine that? Gov. Jennifer Granholm actually helps school districts where families are leaving to get more state money than those school districts where families happily abound? Interesting since the teachers, with their unions, helped elect the governor.

This is a school district that doesn’t want to look at any reductions to an already bloated administrative and supervisory staff. This is a school district that wants to have available “extra” funds for “staff training and travel.”

Where’s the intermediate school district’s plan for Grosse Pointe Public Schools in providing any needed staff training? They already get tax dollars to service all Wayne County schools in a variety of ways or as requested by a school district’s administration.

And, hey, Grosse Pointe Public Schools, have you not heard of interactive video — where staffs do not have to travel, but can receive training “on-site” in the school district? Come now, with the extra funds that this community has already appropriated for your techonolgy programs — why isn’t this resource replacing costly travel expenses?

And, this is a school distinct that does not want to “trim classroom assistants.” Well now, how many assistants does a, hopefully, fully-qualified and, absolutely, very well paid Grosse Pointe public School teacher need in a classroom of anywhere from four to 21 students?

It’s interesting to note that when class sizes are smaller — better test scores are not a result.

Now, remember that this school district has an equity fund of over $14 million. You can equate this to a school district’s savings account. Yes, this is important when bonds are made. However, the “dipping” of the school district into its equity fund to cover whatever it deems “necessary” to fund its extravagant operating style will not decrease its bond rating. It will remain the same. And, the best part — it already has the money — no more is needed from the resident taxpayer.

Why don’t they just do that? Because, if they can get more cash another way, why not keep the equity fund and have more money guaranteed for six more years?

So, fellow residents, you have a choice to make on March 16. At least those of you who will be physically here and those residents who are lucky enough to have received their absentee ballot applications in time in order to return them, so that they can then receive their actual absentee ballots in time to complete them, and then send the completed ballots along to the school district in order to be counted in the actual “special election.”

These select few will decide for all residents if Grosse Pointe Public Schools can be excused from any and all efforts to streamline their operation, will continue to ignore any elimination of non-student-centered costs and extravagant past practices, and can remain disrespectful toward the voting rights of its tax-paying residents, and will be encouraged to obtain future funding in exactly this same manner from the community residents.

Or, these same voters can decide to say, “no.” That it’s time that this school district did a “reality check,” and learn with its residents who are also restricting spending, cutting “fluff” from their own budgets, managing with a close eye on absolute necessities, and discovering ways of providing those extras for their own families in new, meaningful and cost-efficient ways.

Hey, Grosse Pointe Public Schools — ever hear of “pay-to-play” for the sports program — just to get you started on a new fiscally sound and responsible budget.

Dr. Janice Pemberton

Grosse Pointe Shores

Dr. Janice Pemberto
March 10, 2004

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