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Letter to the Editor: Resident considers options on privatization after school board meeting



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May 30, 2012 - Dear Editor,

At the May 23 Lake Orion School board of education meeting, I was struck by three things:

1) the thoughtful, eloquent plea of the community member who warned the board to consider the full ramifications of privatizing custodial services; 2) the graphs shown by Superintendent Marion Ginopolis and Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance John Fitzgerald indicating that even with the implementation of privatization, the district is still projected to have deficits of millions more, from 2013 to 2017; and 3) the high cost of raising the education bar for our children, including instructional mandates from the State of Michigan, such as the World Language requirement; and support for Lake Orion's current initiatives, such as the freshman academy, advanced classes, and restoration of media specialist positions (crucial in our technology- and research-driven world).

So, let's connect the dots. How much more are we going to cut, and from where? Who's next? Are we going to privatize educational services (teachers)? Even if we did, would that erase our deficit or improve learning outcomes for our students? On a national level, we are challenged to "race to the top," but instead our society seems to be racing to the bottom in terms of living wages, salaries, benefits, and student achievement. We can't cut our way out of this mess. Revenues must somehow increase.

Governor Snyder and the Republican-led legislature cut business taxes in 2011 and helped pay for this by raiding the school aid fund, reducing the per pupil funding (foundation allowance) given to school districts by several hundred dollars. If not for this cutback, Lake Orion Community Schools, a relatively fiscally conservative district, would have had a balanced budget. Our administration has been trying to earn back some of this funding by implementing a number of "best practices," as required by the state.

In the May 23 Lake Orion Review, State Representative Brad Jacobsen noted that reform hasn't been easy, but things are looking up and we have a surplus in state revenue. I truly hope the business tax gamble is paying off in new, well-paying jobs and new small businesses. But if we keep cutting other jobs and wages—including those of custodians, teachers, bus drivers, and other school staff—who is going to buy the goods and services created by these businesses?

I believe the state has cut education funding too deeply, and it's time for everyone to contact Rep. Jacobsen and State Senator Jim Marleau about the need to restore some of it with Michigan's surplus, especially since the state likes to tout the need for a "well-educated workforce." Education—bothpreK-12 and higher education—needs to be a priority.

If we had the assurance of stable, sustainable, predictable funding from the state, then the LOCS board wouldn't find itself between a rock and a hard place as far as privatizing services.

Lastly, a word about the situation our board members are in as they struggle with the potential privatization of custodial services, to be voted on next month. Last night, while administration presented the proposal to outsource services to the DM Burr Group, board members asked many excellent, probing questions and requested comparative information as they continue their own due diligence on behalf of the students and taxpayers. This board has a burdensome responsibility. They will not be making this difficult decision based on ideology or a desire to be punitive in any way. After weighing all the factors, if they feel they must award a contract to this company, it will be due to financial realities, and I'm sure it will be with heavy hearts.

-Amy Marcaccio Keyzer

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