Opinion | Michigan must fix school funding model for students to shine

Rep. Padma Kuppa, D-Troy, represents the 41st District, which includes Troy and Clawson

An immigrant twice over, I am an ardent advocate for our children’s education.

As a young girl, I came to America with my parents who were pursuing higher education at one of our world class universities. I learned to value democracy in our public schools - and believe in my dreams. My parents decided to move our family back to their homeland when I was in the middle of high school. I studied hard, earned a bachelors in mechanical engineering, and came back home to America for grad school.

After I married another engineer, we moved to Michigan to help make cars, and chose Troy with its excellent public schools for our children. Over the years, I’ve traveled to Lansing often, to advocate against education funding cuts that are diminishing our children’s opportunities, and volunteered in local schools to help compensate for those cuts.

Those experiences taught me that high-quality education is a foundation for success, for both individuals and communities. Yet for years, the School Aid Fund has been robbed to address other revenue shortfalls. Michigan’s current per-pupil funding formula was developed during a frenzied, last-minute, lame duck legislative session in 1994. That funding formula was established before we had expensive test-based accountability policies or the Internet. Twenty-five years later, citizens across Michigan know from experience what the researchers are now telling us: our school funding is neither equitable nor adequate.

I heard that public call at a town hall meeting I recently hosted in my House district focusing on Michigan’s public education system, to have a more robust conversation and remove partisanship around the topic. Panelists and community members discussed how education is critical to economic opportunity and Michigan’s future. They also discussed findings from the School Finance Research Collaborative’s comprehensive study, the Launch Michigan initiative, and how Governor’s Whitmer’s values-based budget proposal is a small step toward achieving adequate and fair funding for Michigan’s public schools.

Civic and corporate leaders across the state who understand the critical importance of high-quality education are calling for reversal of Michigan’s disinvestment from public schools. There are groups that disagree, as was argued in a recent guest commentary in Bridge Magazine.

But decades of research shows that increased support for education results in higher academic outcomes. The Crossroads report written by MSU scholar David Arsen and his colleagues, clearly lays out the problems with Michigan’s system of education finance and charts a new direction for the state. A clear and simple fact holds true: Michigan is last among the 50 states in per-pupil education revenue growth since 2003.

Our one-size-fits all funding formula ignores the reality that every child is unique. The formula hasn’t kept up with rapidly changing technological or social changes. If we take into consideration each child’s individual needs, individual outcomes will be better and our schools will be successful. Ensure that a student in the Upper Peninsula has access to online learning opportunities with broadband, provide meals to a student who comes to school hungry. Don’t consider funding for special education something “extra.”

We are the wealthiest nation in the world with sufficient resources to protect the most vulnerable: our children. Research only validates what I already know: that students today aren’t getting the same opportunities I or my kids received. Let’s do what we can to reverse the damage in the short-run and invest in the future by fixing the outdated and inadequate education funding model.

Every child in Michigan deserves the same opportunity I had, and a bright future where they too can pursue their dreams.

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Mon, 04/22/2019 - 10:09am

If u really want the kids to learn more, how about making them go to school year round? Teachers already earn 40 to 80 grand a year for a 180 day school year. That's less than 6 months work. Also get rid of the teachers union so the teachers are held accountable for their work. Once a teacher is tenured its impossible to get rid of the bad ones.

Dennis Nazelli
Mon, 04/22/2019 - 10:35am

Hello Honorable State Representative, Padma Kuppa, of the 41st District. Your story in the Bridge hit the chord of my values to strengthen the educational system in Michigan. My son, Christopher is a senior math lecturer at Wayne State, and, daughter-in-law, Andrea, is head of the language department at Detroit Country Day high school. They joined me in Livonia to defeat Laura Cox by electing your colleague in the Lansing congress, Dayna Polehanki.
I want you to know, as an officer in the Livonia Democratic Club, and, as a Delegate to the State Central Committee from the MI-11th CD, I will encourage everyone in my sphere of listeners to support all initiatives to advance education in Michigan.
Thank you for leading us in the right direction,
Dennis Nazelli

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 11:39am

First off start with our Secretary of education. Don't help fund private schools and demand accountability from charter schools. When you pay starting teachers in the low 30,000$ you don't always attract the best. Pay for your schools now or pay later. Build our CTE programs up like we did in the 70s and the 80s. R.L.

Donna Lowry, MD
Mon, 04/22/2019 - 12:37pm

"Research only validates what I already know: that students today aren’t getting the same opportunities I or my kids received," Representative Kuppa. This is also what I know a Michigan educated 1st grade- medical school who chose to move back to Michigan to raise children. The global research also demonstrates that funding equation needs to include preK as a constant, not a variable. Michigan let's move this forward, young adult children would like to raise their children in Michigan.

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 2:45pm

Money is only part of the problem, Michigan's school funding and general attitude toward education has become so politicized that I think any significant reform ideas are hopeless and the status quo will just go on. With so many college of education programs in the state are having enrollment figures well below what they used to be that tells you something is seriously bad about how education is viewed as a career choice. (sorry to get off the topic a bit).

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 7:01pm

Ms. Kuppa has verified my worst fear, when a person becomes a paid politician they forget all they did before becoming a politician.
All the engineers I have worked with always explain what they would deliver, the value/results, how they would achieve the value/results, how they would verify value/results using performance metrics, before they even mentioned money.
Ms. Kuppa only talks about money and forgets about delivering value/results, accountability, and shows no interest in even how the money will be spent.

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 8:35pm

What? Republicans retain control of the both the House & the Senate. Guess what? It doesn't matter what her vision is, these legislators won't even allow any bills regarding school funding into session. She talks of money because her Republican counterparts love to scream about taxes all the while controlling the State Governement and providing no real solutions to school funding. In FACT, they raided the school funds!!! Your worse fear is having a Republicans ALWAYS control the Senate (ALWAYS!!!), have primarily controlled the House, AND the Governorship, and having watch all of our public services go in the crapper.

Kevin Grand
Tue, 04/23/2019 - 7:24am

Hmmmm, 1994???

Wasn't Debbie Stabenow in the Michigan Legislature during that time?

Didn't she sign off on the bill Rep. Kuppa is lamenting about?

If you want to argue FACTS, Anne, you could begin by getting yours straight.

And I haven't even gotten into the '00's...

Tue, 04/23/2019 - 8:14am

Anne you've illustrated the gulf between R's and D's perfectly. R's in general don't buy the idea that politicians can or should be responsible for educating one's kids. The results drectly seem to end up ineffective and very expensive. D's seem to believe there are expects who can solve all problems faced and it's only a question of finding the money to impliment their ideas.

Tue, 04/23/2019 - 9:32am

It doesn't matter who is talking, if they start with money and only talk about money nothing else will change. And when all the commenter talk about money and not results it only reinforces nothing will change.
If she were an 'engineer' worth her 'salt' she would talking about results and how to achieve those results before she would even have a clue about how much it would cost or how to effectively spend the money. As for the Republicans, as long they focus on money we will get the same results.

Tue, 04/23/2019 - 3:25pm

All of the various state departments have been raided due in major part to the federally mandated programs providing benefits to refugees and asylum seekers. Some $2 billion was transferred when Michigan was assigned 50,000 refugees, less than 20% of who were Syrian, from the Syrian Civil War. Same either is, or will happen soon, as more asylum seekers come to Michigan. According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, some 90% receive full benefits for an average of 7 years.

Tue, 04/23/2019 - 3:26pm

Just throwing more money at this has never proven to be a solution.

Marshall Kirby
Wed, 05/15/2019 - 3:30pm

Let's start funding K-12 like you do Colleges and universities? Reduce the mandatory age that a student can leave schools back to 16, let's educate the ones that want to be there, and not force everyone to go to school. All schools should be funded at the same amount, not this formula where inner city schools get more per student than rural schools. And Charter schools and any private school that receives state money have to follow the same rules.