There's political dynamite to be detonated in the latest report on education funding out of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.
Not from CRC, mind you. As usual, the invaluable nonprofit, nonpartisan organization does what it does: tackle the numbers and details to show citizens who want to know what is actually going on with state spending and policies. In this case, the eye turns to Proposal A, which redefined school funding in the mid-1990s.
Among conclusions from cRC:
1. Prop A "worked" in that it addressed the chronic inequality in per-pupil funding that long existed across district lines in the state.
2. School districts that were on the low end of funding prior to Prop A's enactment did pretty well.
And now the interesting part: "(F)or the districts that were high spending prior to Proposal A, caps on spending combined with much more modest grant increases have led to per pupil revenues in these districts that are significantly below the pre-Proposal A level when adjusted for inflation."
That's a diplomatic way of saying that the students and parents in wealthier school districts are being held back by Prop A.
This isn't exactly a surprise to those inside school finance. Michigan citizens and legislators never choose to pursue equality by picking the highest-funding district and figuring out a way to pull everyone up to that level. A phased-approach was adopted whereby the lower-funded districts received larger annual boosts to catch up with the high funders. But the law constrained the high funders to help close the gap.
This wasn't a huge deal when the economy was fine and per-pupil rates advanced every year. Times are different.
With even well-heeled communities and school districts such as Okemos, East Grand Rapids and Birmingham having to cut school budgets, how long before political pressure mounts in Lansing to "do something" about Prop A?