HANCOCK - Current 110th District state Rep. Matt Huuki, R-Atlantic Mine, and candidate Scott Dianda met with superintendents and school board members Friday to discuss the effect of current legislative issues on schools during the Copper Country Association of School Boards' legislative luncheon.
"Legislation plays a critical role in the development of policies that impact our schools," said Gale Eilola, CCASB president.
The CCASB organized the luncheon to promote collaboration between the groups because of the problems the state and schools face.
Daily Mining Gazette/Ashley Curtis
State Rep. Matt Huuki, R-Atlantic Mine, and 110th District House candidate Scott Dianda met with superintendents and school board members Friday to discuss the effect of current legislative issues on schools during the Copper Country Association of School Boards’ legislative luncheon.
Dianda, who hails from Calumet, expressed his firm belief in making sure that schools are funded and have teachers who are highly educated.
"My No. 1 priority is to get Michigan back to funding education," said Dianda.
Empowering parents and school board members is key to the success of education for Huuki.
"We're empowering parents to make the proper choices for their children," said Huuki. "We are also making sure that our local school boards have the tools available to them to make sure they are doing their best for their schools."
One of the school board tools Huuki is referring to is the tenure reform.
"I supported the tenure reform," said Huuki. "It comes down to our children, ultimately their success in the future comes from having the best teachers."
For Huuki, the success of the reform comes from eliminating the first in, last out policy to encourage young teachers; however, Dianda believes that with appropriate documentation, a tenure reform becomes unnecessary.
"Anybody in the state of Michigan, whether working for a school district or state entity, can always be taken out of their position as long as the documentation is in order," Dianda said.
During the luncheon, Huuki and Dianda addressed pre-submitted questions and questions from audience members. One of the main questions addressed was the difference in funding levels between schools.
According to Huuki, Proposal A brought in the funding difference between 20-J and non-20-J schools. The difference was meant to be made up, and hasn't been yet, but it is something to work towards.
"With this year's budget we were able to put $120 more per pupil to non-20-J schools, and many of the schools here qualified for that, bringing them closer and closer," Huuki said.
When asked about meeting state requirements and what they would do to give back some local control to the districts, Dianda expressed his firm belief in local control of governments.
"I will vote only for local control of government on issues of the schools," Dianda said. "They should have the opportunity to teach what they need to teach per district."
Some of these opportunities Dianda hopes will come in the form of additional nursing courses and vocational specific courses for students interested in careers in ship building.
Huuki believes that in order to put more funding into education, we must first focus on improving the economy.
"The key thing is the economy. If the economy isn't improving, if we don't have the revenues coming into the state, we have a very hard time increasing funding across the board," said Huuki.
By looking at unique opportunities within each district, Huuki believes the economy can improve. One of his primary focuses to improve the economy and bring jobs back to the district is through the promotion of mining operations, such as the Orvana and Rio Tinto sites.
To increase funding for schools, Dianda would like to encourage the state to take a closer look at their expenses and be sure the money goes back to the children.
"We need to look at the sales tax, not raise the sales tax, but take a half of one percent of the current sales tax and make sure it's here in June, not October when you are looking for funding," Dianda said.
Although things don't turn around overnight, Huuki stressed the state's improvement from the 49th worst state to do business in to the seventh best state.
"We have to get to the root of the problem," said Huuki. "We're talking about revenue problems. What creates revenue? It's private sector business."
When addressing the closing comments, Dianda reinforced his commitment to the children.
"We have to make sure that the kids can count on the people in elected office to make sure they are going to be looking out for their future," said Dianda. "We need to provide the best, that is how Michigan is going to grow."