The current school funding crisis caused by the pandemic is bringing educators and parents together, asking district administrators how to get accurate information and have their voices heard. The new “Our Kids, Our Future” website is a response.
“When we talk about advocacy for public education, we need to have multiple stakeholders involved, including parents, superintendents, board members, concerned citizens,” said Chris Glass, director of legislative affairs for West Michigan Talent Triangle, the joint advocacy initiative of Kent, Muskegon, and Ottawa ISDs. “We are offering a vehicle where people can make their voices heard about their concerns for school funding.”
Most of the School Aid Fund revenue comes from income and sales taxes. It is estimated that because of the 10-week shuttering of businesses due to COVID-19, the School Aid Fund will have a $1.25 billion shortfall, nearly a $700 per student reduction. Nationally, it is estimated that schools will spend about $41 billion on pandemic-related costs in areas like technology, health and safety equipment and expanding food services for low-income children.
The three communication departments of the Kent, Muskegon and Ottawa ISDs banded together to build the site, which features informational videos on school finances, how to connect with legislative leaders and a petition to Congress to provide financial support to the schools. According to Glass, more than 34,000 people have taken action on the petition.
“While it is important to have a vehicle like this, without the passion for public education from the people it would not have any influence,” Glass said, adding that given the response so far, the message about school funding is already resonating with the community.