Lessons in Survival
Gretchen Driskell, Saline's mayor for fourteen years and its state house representative since January, agrees with Holden's estimation of the schools' dilemma. "Their hands are tied because they've got no alternative sources of income." And like everyone else we interviewed, Driskell says the cuts to education have been "hugely detrimental to the future of our state. It's the main reason I ran [for state rep] last year."
Another legislative newcomer, Ann Arbor Democrat Adam Zemke, serves on the education appropriation committee. "I wanted to be on the appropriation committee because the budget is the expression of state policy," he says, "and in my opinion we've been doing a disservice to Michigan's children since before the current administration, though they've done their share."
"How you set budget is how you govern," Driskell adds, "and [under Snyder] the state's put business first by cutting business taxes at the expense of education."
The Democrats' proposed solution "involves increased funding," Zemke says. "I'm a big proponent of big improvements to public schools, and they all cost more money." The Democrats have a plan to raise the funds. "Our caucus's [proposed] budget adds $320 per pupil to the budget without raising taxes," says Driskell. "We do it by removing some business tax exemptions."