Randy Liepa is Superintendent of Wayne RESA and is one of five candidates in the running to become the next Michigan State Superintendent.
As Superintendent of Wayne RESA, I read with great interest a recent Bridge guest commentary by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
While there has been dueling commentary over the past several years about whether funding for Michigan schools has increased or decreased, school officials doing the actual work in local districts know clearly what has happened over the past many years. Many — if not most — school districts have had to reduce programs and services to students, and this has impacted student achievement in our state. This includes the collapse of our largest district along with other districts that have disappeared. And, local officials know they have more at-risk students attending school and fewer programs to support them.
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Regardless of dueling numbers, the reality is our current funding system is not working for our students. As a result, our schools continue to struggle to meet Michigan’s rigorous academic standards, and our students continue falling behind their peers across the country. There is no one-size-fits-all way to educate Michigan’s pre-K-12 students. A new, fairer school funding approach is needed that serves all students, regardless of zip code, income, learning challenges or other circumstances.
There’s good news: The School Finance Research Collaborative has provided the roadmap to fixing Michigan’s broken school funding approach and making it fair for all students. The Collaborative, which I’m proud to serve on, has produced Michigan’s first comprehensive school adequacy study that determined the true cost of educating a child in Michigan.
The Collaborative is a bipartisan and diverse group of business leaders and education experts from all corners of Michigan who agree it’s time to finally change how we fund our schools.
We know the report’s recommendations should be implemented over several years. But we must start now. The governor’s budget proposal begins to address the report’s recommendation. This is a significant step in the right direction.
Now is the time for all policy leaders and lawmakers from both political parties to use the Collaborative’s first-of-its-kind research as the building blocks for a new, fairer approach that provides all students the opportunities for the future they deserve.