Back-to-school time reminds us of the importance of education
It's that time of year again - time to re-establish daily routines like going to bed early, packing lunches or laying out clothes and time to buy necessary supplies, including pencils, crayons and paper. It's also time to be on the lookout for school buses with flashing lights and small children crossing the streets.
Michigan students are returning to school. As the husband of a teacher and the father of two children who graduated from a public school system, I care deeply about our state's education system.
Despite the tough economy our state is facing, I want our children to receive the best education possible. The Senate is working hard to better prepare our young people for the ever-changing world and keep more money in the classroom.
Realizing that parents are facing economic hardships, legislation was recently introduced to bring tax relief to state residents by establishing a "back-to-school tax holiday." Michigan would be joining more than 10 states that already lift sales taxes on school supplies for a few days. The holiday would include sales tax relief up to $150 on clothing, as well as an additional tax break on supplies up to $50.
Other legislation has also been introduced in the Senate that would save school districts millions of dollars through sensible reforms.
Senate Bills 418-421 would reduce the cost of health benefits for school districts and other public employers while maintaining excellent benefits for the employees. The legislation would allow school districts to pool medical, dental and optical benefits and require increased access to claims and other data to create the insurance pools. School districts could save about eight percent a year, without reducing health care benefits or coverage, allowing the savings to be put directly into the classroom.
New school employees would be required to work a certain number of years before receiving retirement health care under Senate Bill 547. The bill also sets up a graded system for retirement health care benefits, much like the system established for new state employees. This plan is estimated to save our schools a minimum of $59 million in the first year alone.
Under Senate Bill 549, schools in an intermediate school district would adopt the same calendar beginning in July 2008, including dates for the winter holiday break, spring break and professional development days. A common calendar allows schools to save on costs such as food services, transportation, technology and human resources. It also helps save on special education and vocational education costs.
Each of these reforms will help keep more taxpayer dollars in the classroom. Having more money available to educate our children helps alleviate the threat of layoffs and reductions of important school programs.
Back-to-school time reminds us that a good education is vital to the success of all Michigan children. My Senate colleagues and I are working hard to enact educational reform measures that will help ensure students have access to the tools and resources they need.
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Posted: Tuesday, September 04, 2007
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