ALGER/MARQUETTE COUNTIES, Mich. (WJMN) – The May 2 election is less than three weeks away, and on the ballot for many Alger and Marquette County residents is the Special Education Millage.
Last week, Local 3 spoke with Marquette-Alger Regional Educational Service Agency (MARESA) who placed the Special Education Millage Proposal on the ballot on behalf of the 12 local school districts and one school academy that it serves. The 20-year millage proposal calls for a 1.5 mill tax increase. Special Education within the two counties is currently underfunded by $4.8 million. General fund dollars are being used to fill that gap for Special Education. If approved, the increase in Special Education funding will provide local school districts the ability to use their general fund budget to support programs and services that benefit every public-school student. NICE Community Schools is one of the school districts that this millage impacts. Superintendent Bryan DeAugustine said if this millage passes, it will help address their need of more personnel and other resources.
“Here at [NICE Community Schools] we really pride ourselves on trying to reinvest any revenue we receive back into our classrooms,” said DeAugustine. “So, making sure that our kids have the appropriate materials, the staffing I mentioned to make sure that we have a good teacher to student ratio and a good support staff member to student ratio. That’s really important for us. Right now, we’re running about one adult for every eight students. That’s just the key to school, is making sure that adults and students interact and that students have access to adults on a one-on-one basis when they need it, and that is super important in special ed of course. We just want to make sure that that is available to each of our kids from kindergarten through 12th grade.”
Special Education students at NICE Community Schools make up nearly 20 percent of its student population. Kristin King, a Special Education teacher at Westwood High School, shares how the current lack of paraprofessionals is impacting the resource room.
“We currently in our district have 22 paraprofessionals for working with our Special Ed students and we are currently looking for more at this time,” said King. “They’re imperative, they just have a wealth of knowledge throughout our district. Our Para pros, especially at our level that I work with, they are responsible for knowing the content from grades 9 through 12. We have a lot of students who are absent on any given day, so we are not only trying to keep up with current material, [but we are also] backtracking and making sure that these gives kids can cover that ground. We do a lot of reteaching, we do a lot of breaking things down, we accommodate materials. We do whatever it takes to help them navigate and to get through that content.”
If approved, the millage would cost the average homeowner in Alger and Marquette counties 42 cents a day, based on a home value of $200,000. To learn more about MARESA’s Special Education Millage, you can visit maresa.org.