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Stories with an analysis of one or several related proposed pieces of legislation

Bill brief: They're Baaaaaaack...

As parents and children settle down for the new school year, our lawmakers in Lansing return from their summer break, refreshed and full of ideas. Watch out. This fall session, in between election years, is where a lot of the legislative work gets done - not all of it good. There are a number of new education-related proposals, some of which are moving very quickly. Here's an overview:

  • Back door tax credit vouchers
  • A-F rating of schools - the legislation that wouldn't die
  • A piece of the action - charters could get a share of enhancement millages
  • State takeover writ large - proposal to eliminate State Board of Education
  • Guns in schools revisited

Back-door vouchers for the well-heeled?

Hypocrisy alert: Vouchers for the well-to-do

Among the first pieces of legislation out of the gate after the Legislature's summer recess is a package of bills in the state Senate creating an "enhanced" Michigan Education Savings Plan. This proposal would allow parents to make tax deductible contributions to an account which could be used to pay for K-12 school expenses. (The plan would be an addition to the existing plan which covers post-secondary education.) The bills - SB 544 through SB 549 - were sponsored variously by Senators Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton Twp), Phil Pavlov (R-St Clair), Judy Emmons (R-Sheridan), and Mike Green (R-Mayville). The Senate Fiscal Agency summary of the bills as reported from committee can be found here.

Sounds OK, right? A little tax break for setting aside money for those athletic fees? Well, hold on to your wallet. The SFA estimates that the cost to set up the program could reach $100 million, with indeterminate costs after that - on top of tax revenue losses from the deduction. Families could deduct up to $5000 (single return) or $10,000 (joint return) of contributions per account.

Do they really expect parents to believe that they would spend $100 million of taxpayer money and offer deductions of up to $10,000 in contributions just so we could pay for sports fees and field trips?

School Aid budget goes to Snyder

Just before the Legislature left for its summer break, lawmakers approved the education and general government budgets and sent them to the Governor for his signature. The final school aid budget, one section of the education omnibus budget bill that also covers community colleges and higher education, had a few important differences with the previous negotiated compromise. Unfortunately, it also includes several items added by the legislature though not wanted, or struck out, in the governor's original request.

K-12 Budget Update: Saving face, at a cost

Well, they cut a deal. In return for a nebulous agreement on a "framework" for shifting new public school employees entirely to a 401k-style retirement plan, Gov. Snyder was allowed to rejoin negotiations over the budget. Literally the same day, a House/Senate conference committee passed a "compromise" version of the School Aid budget for fiscal 2018. As you might expect, it's a mixed bag.

Budget: House & Senate fire their first shots

[UPDATE: Budget bills as passed by each chamber] Before the April break, the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees on school aid issued their alternatives to the budget proposed by Gov. Snyder in February. As expected, many of the innovative provisions included in the Governor's draft have been stripped out of the subcommittee versions. Both legislative versions manage to offer higher foundation allowances while also spending less, in the case of the Senate, than the executive recommendation. The House's proposal is only marginally higher than Gov. Snyder's version. When things like that happen, it's time to check your wallet. We've got the details.

Budget update: the perils of plenty

The state's top economists met last week to forecast state tax revenues for the next fiscal year, and they found both good and bad news. On the good side, projected revenues to the state School Aid Fund were higher than previous estimates, making some $153 million more available for the current fiscal year than estimated in January. Estimated revenues for next year (fiscal 2018) were also revised upward, adding almost $190 million to projected revenues, mainly on the strength of higher sales tax collections.

Uncommon Core: your Legislature at work, but for whom?

Our state, like our nation, has something of a split personality on education standards. On the one hand, we all seem to like the idea of going farther, higher, more rigorous. On the other hand, we're suspicious of things "not invented here" and especially things that are not under our own control. Of course, it also depends on what we mean by "our own" control.

A bill now in the Legislature is being presented as banning the Common Core, something appealing to many folks concerned with education. But what's the real motive here?

First look at Snyder's 2018 school aid budget

Governor Rick Snyder's proposed school aid budget for next year has been greeted with cautious optimism by public school advocates, and with good reason. All schools would receive an additional $50-$100 per pupil next year, funding earmarked for at-risk students would get a significant increase, and high schools would receive an extra $50 per student to cover their higher costs. But good ideas rarely make it through this Legislature unscathed. This budget in particular is likely to anger pro-privatization forces in the state, setting things up for a major battle over the coming months.

School Aid budget meets reality

The state's top economists met on Tuesday, and delivered the not-so-good news: state tax revenue, including school aid funding, was going to be lower than we thought, by almost $175 million this year and $160 million in the next year. Since the state budget has to be balanced, the proposed budgets for next year have to be "adjusted" accordingly.

Legislative update: State control worked so well, let's do it again!

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