As expected, the State House passed the budget slicing $430 per pupil from the schools. There is a continuing point of mystification here, namely how the economic gains from education are to be realized at the same time resources are being stripped from the schools. This has been a persistent problem for the Governor from at least the National Governor’s Conference and Michael Porter’s presentation.
It’s spelled out there: for a highly productive economy, budget cuts are part, but so too is education. Much of the difficulty has been the conviction that a streamlined system for doing business in the state, the support of entrepreneurs and the like must come at the expense of budget. At the very least this has been a ham-handed approach that renders all problems fiscal. Perhaps. But the real trick is that as a state we must do both: create the business-friendly environment but also develop a workforce prepared for the future. Porter summarizes it this slide:
But if education is so important, what’s going on?
One part bluntly, is the renegotiation of the salary/benefit package in education. However, given that talent can move, to other states or out of the profession, there is a limited capacity here for significant costs savings. So the result is a degrading of the schools and their offering, a move more tolerated by poorer less powerful districts, than there better-off, high expectation neighbors.
While some legislators are perhaps willing to consideration of such long-term degradation, Snyder clearly is not.
Thus, at its base, the Snyder proposal is less a budget than an elaborate borrowing from our future. The quality education that will make a difference will require additional resources, especially as we begin to think in terms of a p-20 process. Although the measure looks like a cut, in the mid-term it is better understood as a cost shifting. The risk is that as a state we go so long that we do damage to the state’s reputation (and so its economic competitiveness), along with putting ourselves in an even greater educational deficit, particularly in our urban areas.
The improved state of the auto economy certainly seems to promise that this slashing need not be long-lasting. And frankly, there is considerable political gains to be had here, slashing the budget now, and then becoming the hero of education in another year or two, just before re-election.