Howard Walkers Northern View (May 16) editorial did not express the whole truth. The first part tries to mollify voters by saying education cuts are really much less than cuts to other departments. Look at the history of state education funding rather than the past year only: since my retirement from education in 2003, state funding to the Traverse City district has remained approximately constant. The state has not kept up with inflation and has begun to defund public education.
Walker is outraged that salary and benefits make up about 80% of school budgets, but what does he expect from school districtsthat most of the money go to computers and textbooks? Education delivers a service, not a product. Its very nature assumes most expenditures will go to pay for jobs.
Then there are his complaints about rising healthcare costs of educators. Those rising costs belong to the economy generally, not to teachers alone. If rising healthcare costs are a problem, deal with that. Dont blame educators. His figure of $24,000 some districts spend for healthcare is hardly representative of plans in most districts. In general, teachers healthcare policies are no more expensive than those for other workers.
Finally, comes the attack on retirement benefits. Walker says retirement is eating up the finances of school districts, but he ignores the fact that contracts include healthcare, retirements, and salary. In other words, most teachers have taken hits in salary and healthcare in order to keep their retirement benefit. It is unfair to consider reducing retirement benefits without examining the reductions in salary and healthcare that teachers have already agreed to.
Let us be honest here: The present government of Michigan is intentionally underfunding public education for political purposes. The next election should put an end to it.
Richard Fidler TC