Markkanen, McBroom meet-and-greet at CCISD
HANCOCK — Michigan State Representative Gregory Markkanen and Michigan State Senator Ed McBroom, both Republicans, attended a meet-and-greet event with administrators from schools in the Copper Country Intermediate School District Friday morning.
Discussions took place in two sessions, one with Markkanen and one with McBroom. The discussions, moderated by local school board members Jason Wickstrom and Brad Baltensperger, focused almost entirely on funding.
“In the past 20 years, (education funding in Michigan) has decreased on an inflation basis,” said Baltensperger, citing “Michigan School Finance at the Crossroads: A Quarter Century of State Control.”
The study, released last year, examines school funding since 1993 when control of school funding was given to the State instead of local districts.
In the following years, many Upper Michigan School districts have had to decrease the number of school administrators – in some cases, despite increasing enrollment.
“It’s tough to run a school with only one administrator,” said CCISD Superintendent George Stockero. “We’re still surviving, we’re still succeeding, but it’s difficult to create new possibilities.”
In many schools, administrative positions are maintained by having the people in those positions perform other tasks as well, including teaching.
“I experienced that as a principal in Houghton,” said current Houghton-Portage Township Schools Superintendent Doreen Kramer. “We were growing in terms of students but the funding wasn’t there.”
McBroom explained the opposition he has encountered on the state level as “not so much a division between party lines as between urban and rural,” citing a popular argument in Lansing that smaller schools should consolidate.
“Consolidation has value and I think that some schools in the U.P. could consider it,” said McBroom. “However, I’m not a person who goes around meddling in local politics like that. That’s something communities should be deciding on their own.”
While population density downstate gives them more representation, Markkanen said that the Upper Peninsula is able to have more collaboration between legislators describing what he called a “U.P. Embassy” in Lansing.
“(State representatives representing districts in the U.P.) have an incredible working relationship with our (state) Senator,” said Markkanen. “We talk with Senator McBroom’s office almost daily, hourly.”
Both legislators also discussed mental health in the schools, the issue raided by Stockero pointing out a “glitch” in a recent piece of legislation giving money to schools for mental health but requiring them to spend it in a single year.
“I’m not even asking for more money, the money is there, I just need the flexibility,” said Stockero. “With the money you have already provided, I could provide this services for at least three years.”
Both legislators said that they would try to fix the problem. They also both discussed the state budget, which was infamously reduced through a record number of line-item vetoes by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. A supplemental budget has been tentatively agreed on by the State House, Senate, and the governor, but Michigan laws limiting how fast a bill can move through chambers prevents it from being passed before the middle of next week, according to McBroom.
“There are some vetoes that will stand, and that should stand,” said McBroom. “There’s always junk in government and some of those vetoes, I was happy to see.”