Opinion | Fund the child, not the ZIP code, in Michigan school budget

Lori Tubbergen Clark

Lori Tubbergen Clark is Newago County RESA superintendent.

As superintendent of Newago County RESA, I was disappointed by a recent Bridge column that completely mischaracterizes the School Finance Research Collaborative’s first-of-its-kind study that determined the true cost to educate a child in Michigan. 

It’s truly disappointing to see misinformation being spread by anyone on this issue of such great importance to the future of Michigan’s schools, its students and our state’s economic comeback. 

The collaborative study’s recommendations actually end the practice of picking winners and losers by addressing the unique needs of every student, regardless of ZIP code, income, learning challenges or other circumstances. 

The collaborative study was conducted by the nation’s top two school finance research firms, and was informed by nearly 300 teachers, special education instructors, counselors and other educators on the frontlines of educating our kids. Its findings are supported by Michigan business leaders, education experts, Republicans, Democrats, independents and, most recently, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Related: School equity proposal exacerbates system of winners vs. losers 

The final report includes a weighted formula that provides a base cost to educate every Michigan student, with additional funding for special education programs, students living in poverty, English language learners and career and technical education programs. Gov. Whitmer embraced this new, fairer approach in her 2020 budget proposal. 

The collaborative report also includes additional funding considerations to serve students in rural and smaller districts. This was good news for districts across Newaygo County and other rural communities around Michigan that face skyrocketing transportation costs or lack economies of scale enjoyed by larger districts. 

Under Michigan’s broken school funding approach, our kids will only continue falling behind. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to educating our kids, and it’s time for a new, fairer approach that recognizes every child is a winner.

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Comments

Chuck Fellows
Fri, 08/16/2019 - 10:19am

School budgets must be developed by actual classroom teachers based upon individual student need integrated with a performance based curriculum that recognizes the unique context the student brings to the classroom. All other educators role will be to support the classroom teacher in that effort. Huge paradigm shift required by the idle minds ruling education today. Focus and purpose is learning as demonstrated by performance and subjective assessment of outcomes at two, five and ten years

duane
Sat, 08/17/2019 - 12:48am

It makes more sense to move the budgeting to the students, and the classroom is closer than any others were have been hear drying for more money. Do you think the teachers should describe how they developed their budget or how they plan to spend the money, or describe the results they expect to achieve with their requested funding?
What criteria they should use for developing their budgets or do you believe that each teacher should decide based on how they feel about each student in their class, or based on the outside classroom needs, or about how they would like to be teaching? Does it matter how effective each classroom/school spends the money, or should their be a verification of practices and impact?

Chuck Fellows
Fri, 08/16/2019 - 10:19am

School budgets must be developed by actual classroom teachers based upon individual student need integrated with a performance based curriculum that recognizes the unique context the student brings to the classroom. All other educators role will be to support the classroom teacher in that effort. Huge paradigm shift required by the idle minds ruling education today. Focus and purpose is learning as demonstrated by performance and subjective assessment of outcomes at two, five and ten years

Don
Sun, 08/18/2019 - 8:01am

The Democrats need to take to court the fact that the Republicans are illegally funding privet school.

Jason Jenkins
Thu, 08/22/2019 - 9:50am

Newaygo County public school official Lori Tubbergen Clark recently wrote a commentary for Bridge Magazine, saying that Michigan's approach to funding education was "broken."

“Under Michigan’s broken school funding approach, our kids will only continue falling behind,” wrote Clark, who is the superintendent of the county Regional Education Service Agency. “There is no one-size-fits-all approach to educating our kids, and it’s time for a new, fairer approach that recognizes every child is a winner.”

There are three regular school districts that serve more than 1,000 students within Clark’s intermediate school district: Grant Public Schools, Fremont Public Schools and Newaygo Public Schools. Even after adjusting for inflation, all three have seen significant state funding growth from 2011-12 to 2018-19.

In the 2011-12 school year, Grant Public Schools received the per-pupil equivalent of $7,892 in 2018 dollars, when adjusted for inflation. By 2018-19 this had risen to $8,557 per student, an 8.4% increase, or $665 more for every student.

Newaygo Public Schools’ inflation-adjusted per-pupil funding increased from $6,691 to $7,388 over that seven-year span. That $697 more per student represent a real 10.4% funding increase.

Fremont Public Schools’ per-pupil funding increased from $7,197 to $8,112 over that seven-year period. That’s a real gain of 12.7%, or $915 more per pupil after adjusting for inflation.

And Clark has personally benefited from the rise of school funding over several years. In 2013-14, her total salary was $149,357. Over the next four years, annual increases brought her gross salary to $151,426; $154,098; $171,231;and $157,283, respectively. The salary figures are what the county education agency reported to the Office of Retirement Services. In addition to being eligible for a Michigan school pension, Clark benefited from a $26,069 contribution her employer made to her annuity in 2018.

David Andrews
Sun, 08/25/2019 - 8:23am

It appears to me our funding formula is not the problem; it is our goals for our educational system. Ms. Clark writes: educational funding should include a " base cost to educate every Michigan student, with additional funding for special education programs, students living in poverty, English language learners and career and technical education programs." It is obvious that this funding is aimed towards producing robots that can all achieve and produce at the same level post secondary education. This goal will not only not work, it doesn't represent what we want and need from our educational system. Our goals for the education system should be culture oriented and not necessarily individual oriented.

Our culture needs brilliant minds, capable of producing new concepts and new methods to strengthen our culture and (if I can say it here) keep America great.

Beyond that, we need the educational system to ensure that every person reaching adulthood can accomplish basic tasks necessary to survive in today's world.

This requires evaluation of every student early and often and the determination of who should be taught to survive (Don't get hung up on the word survive - it is survival in today's world not some backward jungle), and who should be taught to soar and lead this nation into the future worlds. This cannot be a binary choice and it must not be irrevocable. Between survival and soaring, there should be a multitude of levels for students who will build America, who will serve America in the service industry, who will work in the health industry,, and other sectors of society. Business must be brought back into the education of our children.

At the end of the day, each child entering the educational system at any point will have a program personalized to their needs and, yes, their wants. The educational system can then use these individual programs to cost out education and provide the educational programs that every child and the state and nation needs.

So, no the cost should not be based on zipcode or classroom, but should be individually funded. and the goal is not to balance a checkbook which most of us never use, but to protect and enhance our culture.

Andy Reed
Tue, 09/10/2019 - 9:55am

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