Michigan Outrage: School Funds to be Spent on Arena > Diane Ravitch

29 Dec

The Attorney General of Michigan ruled that it was appropriate to use school funding to build a new hockey arena for the Red Wings.

“Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette quietly issued an opinion that said state taxes for schools can legally be used to fund the arena’s construction. The opinion came in response to a request in October from state Rep. Rose Mary Robinson (D-Detroit), who asked if it was a constitutional use of the funds.

“In her request, Robinson pointed to a section of the Michigan Constitution, which says that money from the state School Aid Fund is to be used “exclusively” for public schools and colleges in Michigan.

“Some quick background: Robinson’s request stems from the structure of how the Red Wings arena will be financed. An estimated 58 percent of the cost to construct the arena will funded by public tax dollars, about $261 million….”

“Whether you agree that public tax dollars should be used for the project, or decry the idea of subsidizing a billionaire’s arena, the fact is that schools in Michigan could use all the help they can get. Even if it is only $15 million.

“For example, this past May, Michigan officials lowered revenue projections for state school taxes over the next year by nearly $80 million. This was seen as a big deal when the revised projections were released. And if facets of a recent state House plan to support road funding — by phasing out the sales tax on gasoline and replace it with an increase to fuel taxes — gains traction when lawmakers hash out a compromise this week, that could cost deplete school taxes of “hundreds of millions of dollars,” according to one study.

“And while Robinson hasn’t said this outright, her point speaks to a larger concern about the current revitalization in downtown Detroit: No one questions the fact that it’s a positive sign to see young millennials moving into the city. But what will those transplants do when they have children later in life and want to send them to school — in Detroit?

“I represent Detroit, and I represent the center of Detroit, the core,” Robinson told MLive. “And our priorities are our children, schools, police protection, basic essential city services. Give us that. Take your arena … it’s just not fair.” Via Michigan Outrage: School Funds to be Spent on Arena

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