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Precede DEARBORN Teachers’ Union Sues After Michigan Governor Signs Big Tax Cut

August 20, 1993

LANSING, Mich. (AP) _ A statewide teachers’ union announced today it is challenging in court a $6 billion property tax cut that requires the state to find a new way to pay for schools.

The Michigan Federation of Teachers said it filed a lawsuit in Wayne County Circuit Court late Thursday ″to ensure a future for Michigan’s schoolchildren.″ The suit contends the law signed earlier in the day by Gov. John Engler will put schools out of business beginning next July 1.

The lawsuit asks the court to take jurisdiction rather than leaving it to the governor and the legislature to voluntarily find a way to replace the lost school funding.

Engler acknowledged the difficult task ahead in getting agreement on an overhaul of public education funding.

He said at the bill-signing in Dearborn that he hopes to give lawmakers a proposal by October. Among ideas mentioned are raising the 4.6 percent sales tax and taxing entertainment and services, including medical care.

″During the next 100 days or so, we will have a window of opportunity that only comes once in a generation - maybe in a century,″ he said. ″All the nation is looking to us.″

Michigan’s new law ends the use of property tax revenue for schools. That will cut property taxes by about two-thirds statewide, though the effect will vary greatly, depending on a home’s value and the local tax rate.

Property taxes have long been under attack, in Michigan and other states, as burdensome and unfair to schools in poorer districts. State officials have said Michigan is unique in revamping its school finance setup without being forced to by court order.

During the past two decades, school funding systems have ended up in court in 25 states. In 11 states, supreme courts have tossed out school-funding systems as unconstitutional for violating guarantees of equal education.

In Michigan, more than two dozen demonstrators, including teachers, protested at the bill-signing.

″One of the things we all need to understand is, we are going to pay for kids. We can pay at the front end and pay for the education of our kids. ... Or we can pay social services and the penal system on the back end,″ said Julius Maddox, president of the Michigan Education Association, with 125,000 members the state’s largest teachers union.

Among states where school-funding plans have been deemed unconstitutional is Texas, which in May began requiring many richer school districts to turn back money to the state or help poorer districts.

In June, Massachusetts’ Supreme Court ordered the state to devise a more equitable plan than the current statewide property tax.