K-12 schools are expected to receive a per-pupil spending boost of approximately $120-$240 in next year’s state budget, based on separate spending plans moving through the House and Senate which closely align with Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposal for increased foundation allowances.
However, none of the budgets address the fundamental shortchanging of Michigan students as identified in the recent study by the Michigan School Finance Research Collaborative. That study – on top of several prior ones – showed that Michigan is underfunding an adequate education for students by as much as $1,959 per student, not including higher costs for special education, English language learners, career & technical education, and more.
In an election year, politicians like to be able to talk about providing increased education funding – and this would be the largest increase school districts will have seen in several years. But it doesn’t correct the systematic underfunding of schools and our broken school funding system.
The increases proposed would provide more to districts currently receiving the lowest per-pupil foundation allowance of $7,631. Over the next several weeks, differences in the budget versions will be worked out through the legislative process, with final passage expected by early June.
Beyond the K-12 foundation increases, there are other details and concerns worth noting in the education budgets under consideration in Lansing:
– Community colleges and universities would receive a 1 percent increase in funding under the House and Senate plans, not the 2 percent proposed by Snyder. Every state university would need to comply with a list of requirements designed to combat sexual assault or risk a 10 percent cut to operation funding.
– The Senate K-12 budget proposal includes provisions that could be damaging to schools in struggling communities which have entered into so-called Partnership Agreements with the Michigan Department of Education (MDE). Partnership Agreements emerged in the last year to avoid the threat of school closures which loomed over districts and buildings where students’ standardized test scores were in the bottom 5 percent statewide. The three-year agreements were intended to provide additional guidance, support, and resources to schools in those largely under-resourced communities.
Instead, the Senate budget would require those schools to submit a plan for achieving “measurable outcomes” within 18 months or face a choice of closing or reconstituting the school. Under reconstitution, a new school board would be appointed, and teacher contracts in that school would be voided. The reconstituted school would then have five years to show improvement. The Senate budget has passed out of Appropriations Committee and is expected to be voted on by the full Senate this week. MEA is opposed to this language and is advocating for it to be left out of the budget by the House (and the likely conference committee that will work out differences between the budget versions).
– All three budgets include additional money for at-risk students, but the House and Senate versions lay out formulas for how the money must be spent on tutoring to raise test scores if fewer than half of at-risk students are considered “proficient” in English Language Arts.
– Neither the House nor Senate budgets follow Snyder’s plan to cut per-pupil funding for cyber schools by 25 percent to account for lower overhead costs incurred by online schools. Snyder had proposed transferring money saved from the cyber schools cut to better fund initiatives in the Third Grade Reading law.