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Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

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

Lori Tubbergen Clark

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.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Ron French. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

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