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Is the state retreating from public education?

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.

Budget enhances
Michigan efforts
on public education

By Gov. Rick Snyder

The success of our state tomorrow depends on how well we prepare our children today. That’s why Michigan is making strategic, long-term investments in our top priorities – kids and education.

After laying the groundwork last year that restored fiscal discipline to Michigan, we now are in a better position to dedicate limited resources to key priorities in a thoughtful manner that looks beyond the short term.

Getting to this point hasn’t been easy. Problems that had been ignored for too long had come home to roost. Michigan faced a $1.5 billion deficit in 2011. The state’s budget challenges had been “solved” year after year with one-time solutions and accounting gimmicks that simply pushed problems into the next year.

There was long-term instability in school aid funding that needed to be addressed. In partnership with the Legislature, we went to work. We made the tough, but necessary, decision to “rebase” the foundation allowance in the current-year budget. This move was critical in getting the budget back in structural balance.

Our shared sacrifices are paying off. Michigan now is on a stronger financial footing and is better able to devote additional resources to education. In my proposed Fiscal Year 2013 budget, we recommend protecting the foundation allowance at FY12 levels. Districts once again would receive additional funding for performance and best practices, as well as additional assistance with their retirement costs.

Our commitment to the future of our children reflects in the fact that 62 percent of all available general fund revenue and state aid fund dollars goes toward funding education. In addition, our proposed budget puts $179 million toward school retirement costs so that more of the foundation allowance can be spent on students in the classroom. This includes a $24 million increase from FY12 in one-time funding to cover the rising costs of retiree health care.

The recommended budget includes $190 million for incentive payments to districts that meet separate performance-based funding and best practices criteria. Another $10 million is set aside for one-time competitive assistance grants to help defray the transition costs associated with consolidation.

Consider these facts regarding our proposed budget for education:

* It includes new funding of $1.75 million to train building principals in conducting educator evaluations fairly and consistently.  

* It provides for $1.4 billion for special education services, or $990.3 million in state funds (an increase of $12.8 million from FY12 enacted levels) and $439 million in federal funds.

* The Executive Budget for the Department of Education includes $209.2 million ($41.2 million general fund) for early childhood programs within the Michigan Office of Great Start, and $500,000 general fund to implement recent statutory provisions allowing for more charter schools.

* Funding to support adult education programs is maintained at $22 million.

* The FY13 budget maintains $309 million in funding for at-risk programs.

* Funding for school lunch and breakfast programs is maintained at $434.6 million, with $32.1 million in state funds and $402.5 million in federal funds.

* A total of $7.8 million supports the state’s math and science centers.

* School transportation safety programs are funded at $3.2 million. Of that, $1.6 million is for school bus inspections provided by Michigan State Police and $1.6 million is for school bus driver safety training. Funding to support transportation costs in small, isolated districts is maintained at $2 million.

* State aid to libraries is maintained at $1.3 million.

Every Michigan child deserves a quality learning experience. Working together, we’re restoring stability toMichigan’s education system so our children and theirs have boundless opportunities and are equipped to thrive in the global economy.

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.

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