In coming weeks, the Michigan Legislature will finish work on Michigan's fiscal 2013 budget -- including funding out of the state's School Aid Fund to local public schools. In today's 42North debate, Glenn Nelson and Brit Satchwell of Ann Arbor argue that Gov. Rick Snyder's 2013 (and 2014) budget plans continue a harmful policy of reducing state support to schoolchildren. Gov. Snyder counters by saying that Michigan's commitment to education remains high, even as the state navigates a variety of fiscal and economic challenges.
Snyder rushes Michigan
children to bottom
of education heap
By Glenn Nelson and Brit Satchwell
The budget recommended by Gov. Rick Snyder strikes a new low in the priority given to public K-12 education. The consequences for our children are devastating.
The resources of the state are commonly measured by state personal income. Economists use it in the consensus revenue reports. Policy-makers embedded state personal income in the Michigan Constitution in the article specifying a limit on state revenue.
Expenditures from the state School Aid Fund constitute the overwhelming majority of state support for K-12 education.
The Snyder budget decreases school aid from state sources (the federal
government funds part of school aid) as a percent of state personal income to a projected average of 2.82 percent in 2013 and 2014. The two-year average for 2002 and 2003 was 3.67 percent. The decline of this relative measure -- a percentage -- cannot be explained by the Great
Recession and the ensuing slow recovery. If state lawmakers had given stable priority to K-12 education over the last decade, the percentage of our state’s resources devoted to it would have remained constant.
The shortchanging of the future of our children and the future of our state due to the lower priority of education is huge. If Snyder had given the same priority to K-12 education in his recommended budget as policy-makers did 10 years earlier, and thereby appropriated 3.67 percent of state personal income to K-12 education, the recommendation for 2012-13 would have been $3 billion larger than the $11 billion in his budget.
Expressing this in different terms, maintaining the priority of 10 years earlier would equate to an increase of nearly $1,944 per student from the budgeted level for every student in Michigan public school districts and charter schools.
While Snyder and his Republican colleagues are the primary force currently bulldozing the state to a record low, their actions are unfortunately consistent with the trend established by their predecessors. The trend towards a lower priority for public elementary and secondary education has been a fixture in Lansing since 2002.
Not surprisingly, our children – and all who care about them -- are suffering the consequences. In 2003, our fourth-graders performed better than those in 24 and 23 other states in math and reading, respectively. By 2011, our fourth-graders outperformed those in only nine and 15 other states in math and reading, respectively. And many experts maintain only U.S.students who exceed the national average are competitive internationally.
If we citizens of Michigan would be willing to commit ourselves to additional funding for preschool through grade 12 funding of only 78 cents of every $100 of our total income, we could undo the damage done by lawmakers in Lansing over the last decade. Let’s look for lawmakers who will support education, ensure a bright future for our children and give our state the competitive work force we need to attract the jobs of the future.