News Column

Michigan lawmakers hike K-12 funding, keep MEAP for another year

June 11, 2014

By Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press

June 11--LANSING -- The per-pupil foundation allowance for K-12 schools was raised between $50 and $175 across the board in the school aid budget, which was adopted by a conference committee Tuesday.

All schools would get a $50-per-pupil increase to at least $7,251. The lowest-funded school districts around the state would get an additional $125 per pupil. The increase will cost the state $177 million.

Advocates for more school choice, including charter schools, applauded the higher bump because most are among the lowest-funded schools in the state.

"We are very pleased the Legislature is striking such a strong blow for equity, and Michigan's students will certainly benefit from this dramatic funding increase," said Gary Naeyaert, executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project.

But traditional school districts were furious because the $50 increase is lower than what Gov. Rick Snyder initially proposed for public schools, and the contribution for retirement plans for about 150 school districts actually went up.

"Parents, school administrators, children and teachers are getting a lot of disingenuous talk from Lansing lately about how everyone wants to invest in education, but then they pass a budget providing a net loss to nearly 150 districts across the state," said Robert D. Livernois, superintendent of Warren Consolidated Schools. "This budget proposal is totally unacceptable and it will send Michigan backwards."

State Rep. Brandon Dillon, D-Grand Rapids, said the foundation allowance boost was not only not enough, but wasn't equitable.

"Detroit is getting a $50 increase and a cyber school in my district is getting $175," he said. "That doesn't make sense."

But state Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Traverse City, said the reduction from earlier proposals was necessary because the state is receiving less than expected tax revenues for both the general and school aid funds. He also noted that the state is continuing to invest in the schools' retirement program at a cost of $268.8 million and that is money that school districts won't have to pay.

Other items in the education budgets include:

-- A continuation of the MEAP testing program for the 2014-15 fiscal year instead of the Smarter Balanced test, which aligns with Common Core standard.

-- Elimination of $2 million for a year-round school program.

-- A 3% increase for community colleges.

The full House and Senate are expected to finish up work on the fiscal plans Wednesday and Thursday. Lawmakers begin an extended summer break at the end of session Thursday.

Contact Kathleen Gray: 517-372-8661, Follow her on Twitter @michpoligal.


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Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)

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