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June 25, 2014 - Reader considers it her 'duty' to vote yes

If there's one thing I've learned about Oxford, it's that there are good and honest people here who work hard at improving community services and amenities. I've had the pleasure of working with many leaders from our fire, police, library, village, township, DDA, chamber of commerce, and parks & recreation sectors.

And if my YES vote on August 5 helps any of these groups in their quest to make Oxford even better, then they have it.

In fact, I consider it my duty to be supportive of the people and programs that enhance the place in which I live.

The August 5 ballot will ask Oxford voters to approve construction of a new community center at Stony Lake Township Park. In serving on the campaign committee, talking about the project with many residents, businesses and groups, I was surprised to learn how many Oxford families travel outside of Oxford for their health and wellness regimens. I'd like to see those dollars stay here in Oxford.

I can envision a community center where seniors interact with youth, and people of all ages get together for classes, a swim, or a workout. It will be affordable. It will raise property values. It will improve economic growth. Membership will be FREE to Oxford seniors. Everybody wins, and it is NEEDED!

I have seen tremendous support for this project in our community. But please do not assume the proposal will pass without your vote. The finish line is clearly within our reach, and we need every "sole supporter" to VOTE YES ON AUGUST 5! Let's do this.

Linda Lewis

Oxford

Girls LAX thanks Ron Davis

On behalf of the Oxford High Girls Lacrosse team I would like to say a big thank you Mr. Ron Davis and the Oxford Parks and Recreation Department!

When the team decided to hold their banquet at Stony Lake Park, Mr. Davis waived the rental fee and donated the use of the pavilion to the team stating. "The team would need to use fundraising money to pay for the pavilion, that money should be used for new equipment for the team."

This reinforces what many already know, our Oxford Parks and Recreation is a strong supporter of our community as a whole, and not just the events put on by their department!

Lisa Stockard

Oxford

Oxford teacher responds to Jacobsen's column

Rep. Jacobsen's recent columns in this paper suggest that all is well in Michigan and that there is nothing but better days ahead for all of us. Of course, there are two sides to every story.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Michigan's unemployment rate was 6th highest in the nation as recently as April, 2014.

And a recent Detroit News article revealed that Michigan's personal income growth lags behind the national average. it appears that Right to Work legislation, huge business tax breaks, and increased taxes on individuals have not only failed to produce jobs at a satisfactory rate, but the jobs that are being created are not doing much to increase the standard of living for many people who live and work in Michigan. Perhaps the opponents of RTW were correct when they called the policy Right to Work - For Less.

Regarding education, data from the Senate Fiscal Agency shows that Oxford Community School's per pupil foundation allowance was $7, 557 per student in the '08-'09 fiscal year. For '13-'14 the amount was $7,145, a decrease of almost 6% while the expectations for schools and costs to run them have gone up. Lake Orion schools received $8,302 and $7,877 per student, respectively. While the school aid fund was being gutted, businesses enjoyed a $1.6 billion tax cut. Kids and those charged with educating them have not come first, despite rhetoric to the contrary. Admittedly, some of the lost funding was the result of the loss of federal stimulus funds, but the current administration made the loss worse by sharing money previously meant for K-12 education with higher education.

As if the financial failures of the current administration are not enough to convince voters that our state leaders should stop "reforming" public education, perhaps a recent push to put the department of treasury in charge of standardized testing will get voters' attention. Some legislators are not happy that they cannot micro-manage which standardized test (MEAP or Smarter Balanced) is given to students, so instead of letting the department of education make the decision, the idea is to rob the department of its ability to make the decision. Surely the treasury department knows what is best for kids, right?

To make matters worse, in a recent freep.com article, "(Education) Department officials and others have raised concerns that dumping the Smarter Balanced test would violate a federal waiver the department received from many of the tough rules of the No Child Left Behind law.

If the state loses that waiver, every school in the state would be identified as failing." Among the consequences is a loss of up to $1 billion in federal funding. Once again, what a strange way to put kids first.

While the school aid funds used to be directed towards K-12 education, the governor and his supporters took it upon themselves to include community colleges and public universities in the pool of money that was intended to be used solely for K-12 education. So it's easy for legislators to say there is now more money than ever being put towards education, but the money is now divided up among more recipients.

It's no wonder there are local teachers who cannot afford to live in the communities in which they teach. Wages have become stagnant with no relief on the horizon, and teacher attrition rates are climbing. The National Commission on Teaching and America's Future estimates that one-third of all new teachers leave after three years, and 46 percent are gone within five years. There is no reason to think that similar statistics don't apply to Michigan.

For example, one can't help but wonder why a young person with any amount of potential would enter the teaching profession. The governor and his supports offer little hope to an eager, young person who wants to make a difference in the world AND make a respectable living. Just think, an aspiring high school student can get a bachelor's degree in engineering and find a starting salary in excess of $50,000 or earn a bachelor's degree in education and earn just over $35,000 in a local school district, and then have little hope that their salary will keep up with cost of living increases.

While I used to be able to recommend to my own children that teaching is a career worth considering, the current administration has stripped away many of the benefits of teaching that used to offset the low salary. Having a love for kids and teaching gets one only so far in teaching; at some point a person needs to be able to save money, purchase a home, make a car payment, and pay off student loans.

Newer teachers are not able to do these things. And the best and brightest of our high school students are not likely to pursue a career in education. It is disingenuous to say kids are first when the current administration has done so much to destroy the culture of those charged with educating kids.

Legislators would have you believe that high stakes testing is putting kids first. What it really does is stifle collegiality among teachers and force teachers and entire school districts to make decisions that may not be best for kids. If one's salary and funding is based, in part, on student test performance then it is only logical to assume that teaching to the test is a strong possibility.

As a district, why put resources into the arts, computer-based curriculum, or foreign language, if those subjects are not tested? Because THAT is what is best for kids, but it costs money to provide those opportunities for kids.

The failure of legislators to fund education properly makes it necessary to do those things to attract (steal) students from other districts, which creates a system of winners and losers. If you are blessed enough to live in such a district, or can afford to transport your student to one of those districts, good for you. As for the rest of you, good luck putting your kids first when it comes to education.

Providing a quality education in one district should not come at the expense of another, yet that is exactly what is happening. Districts are fighting for the limited funds that are available since there is an overall lack of funding.

Meanwhile, our state legislators enjoy the fourth highest pay in the nation. They make about $72,000 per year in addition to a $10,000 allowance for expenses. In addition, Michigan is one of only FOUR states with a full-time legislature.

That leaves them with plenty of time to come up with legislation that is rarely talked about during campaign season: reducing the decision-making abilities of locally elected leaders, attacking women's rights, forcing controversial RTW (For Less) legislation, increasing taxes on pensions, forcing state-appointed emergency managers on local communities, expanding the state takeover of schools (with dismal results to show for it), turning education over to for-profit businesses (with further poor results), and slapping $1.4 billion in tax increases on taxpayers to pay for $1.6 billion in tax cuts for businesses passed in 2011.

In closing, we need to elect local and state leaders who are not afraid to look past party lines. Many of us were duped by the current administration and its supporters, and the effects are everywhere around us in the form of unfulfilled promises, stagnant wages, higher taxes, and social policies that border on extremism.

One look at the voting record of our local representatives shows that businesses will continue to be favored over individuals and that our leaders will continue to inject themselves into areas of our lives where they have no expertise or right to be in the first place.

Hopefully voters will take charge and force a change so we are not subject to the whims of poor policies, unfulfilled promises, and legislative actions that continue to erode our standard of living.

Neil Peruski

Oxford

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