Tuesday, May 13, 2014

State Budget Discussions: School Implications, Again

Budget Season is Back

Steve Norton of Michigan Parents for Schools wrote last week:

After a three-week break in April, the State Legislature is back at it again. It's budget season in an election year, which means that lawmakers will be trying to satisfy voters by showing some support for key programs such as our public schools -- or at least give the appearance of doing so.
He notes that the state's revenue projections, coming out this week, will have a major impact. The first projection came out today (two more coming tomorrow and Thursday), and at least the first projections don't look too good for schools--given that they are clearly an afterthought for Snyder and Company.

According to this article, the House Fiscal Agency projects that "The state will bring in about $400 million a year less in revenue than officials estimated in January." [Note: revenues are growing. Just not as much as the projections from earlier this year, which were revised to be ever more optimistic.]

Further, according to the article,
Net state revenue is projected to dip just under 1% in 2013-14, the report says. While general fund revenue is expected to dip 3% — or $290 million — to $9.3 billion. The net School Aid Fund revenue is expected to increase about 1.5% — or $169 million — to $11.4 billion. Net revenue still is expected to increase significantly in 2014-15 and 2015-16, just not by as much as projected earlier.
And--there is significant competition for any money that is seen as "extra" for road funding and the Detroit bankruptcy. And also--the Detroit News is reporting that the Education Achievement Authority administrators are jet-setting around the country while the rest of the state loans them money.

Big, beautiful Michigan does not want to fund its
schools properly. (At least, its government doesn't.)
Map taken from:

School Funding Proposals

According to Michigan Parents for Schools, the current proposals for school funding are as follows:

Governor's proposalHouse versionSenate versionInflation projections
Minimum: +$111 (to $7,187), 1.6% increase
Basic (maximum) +$83 (to $8,132), 1.0% increase
Minimum +$112,1.6% increase
Basic +$56, 0.7% increase
Min +$300,4.2% increase
Basic +$150,1.9% increase
2014 forecast: 1.3%
Avg. 2011-13: 2.3%
These increases do not reflect other changes, like "best practices" and pension plan cost changes, which may raise or lower the per-pupil funding available.

Or, as Christine Stead (AAPS school board member) succinctly states in describing the impact on Ann Arbor schools (this helped me visualize the numbers)
One would think that our FY15 will be much better [ed. note: due to the economic recovery] and we can look forward to investing again in one of our most important economic drivers: high quality education. Until you review the state’s proposals ($$ shows the impact for AAPS):
Governor’s proposal: $55,000
  Senate proposal: ($2,171,000)  House proposal: ($1,276,000) 
There is a serious disconnect in how our schools are funded, the state of our economy, and any local community’s ability to do anything about it (currently).
Multiply that by schools around the state. 

Talking Points

Michigan Parents' for Schools talking points:
At the very least, all districts deserve an increase in per-pupil funding that allows them to keep up with inflation. 
These increases should be calculated after the impact of other changes such as shifts in state pension costs, not before.  
Current law specifies that school districts should get a supplement in their per-pupil funding for every student from a family living below the poverty line. But we have never fully funded this provision, and the current spending level only covers half of what the law requires. We need to give our schools the resources they need to fight the impact of poverty, and all schools should be eligible for these funds. 
Right now, local school districts must take money from their general education funds in order to meet their important (and legally required) obligations to provide special education services. Our schools should not have to choose between meeting their moral and legal obligations to students with disabilities and having sufficient resources for all their students.
It's hard not to feel despairing about the impact we can have. 
But we need to keep trying.

Giving Input on Proposal A

Christine Stead is asking for some specific input. Here's why:

John [Austin, President of the State Board of Education], and the State Board of Education, has started a process to seek input from different organizations on the impact of Proposal A and the general funding experience for public education.  The process will shift to take input from community members and school systems over the next few months.  Presentations made so far can be found here.
I will accompany the Superintendent and CFO from the AAPS on June 17th to submit the AAPS experience and recommendations for changes to Proposal A.
If you have specific suggestions, Christine Stead would like to hear from you with your suggestions about changes to Proposal A. She writes, 
Folks can either email me or submit comments/questions to this site []. I’ll do what I can to get answers to questions. I also don’t mind submitting folks’ comments to the State Board of Education as part of our testimony – especially if they lead toward solutions. You can use either email for me: or 

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  1. I think, what Christine Stead is trying to say, is that AAPS has been incorporated.