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Newsbrief: EAA passes House; school aid budget moves

Just before going on their two week spring break, the legislature moved along two key pieces of education legislation.

Two critical bills moved forward in the state House over the last few weeks. They will both have important effects on our public schools, but in different ways:

  • The House Appropriations subcommittee on School Aid passed a revised version of the Governor’s school aid budget proposal that maintains the same level of spending but actually increases the effective per-pupil cut for most districts.
  • The House Education Committee reported out the EAA expansion bill on a mostly party-line vote, and the bill passed the full House just before the break after frantic lobbying by EAA supporters.

    Constant readers may recall that Governor Snyder’s proposed school aid budget, though advertised as a 2% increase for K-12 education, was in fact an effective cut of between $2 and $36 per pupil for nearly all districts. Spending did increase, though the bulk of it was to expand the number of preschool slots offered by the state’s Great Start Readiness Program. While expanding this program is the best part of the Governor’s budget, it comes at the expense of spending on K-12 public education. While districts at the lowest level of per-pupil funding would receive a $32 per pupil “equity payment” to bring their funding up to $7,000 per pupil, the budget also cut so-called “best practices” funding by $36 per pupil.

After hearings in the House subcommittee, a revised version of the budget (HB 4227 [H-1]) was sent to the full Appropriations committee. Notably, the House version limits the expansion of GSRP slots somewhat, and shifts some other spending. The “best practices” funding is eliminated entirely in this version, resulting in an effective cut of $18-$52 per pupil for most districts. Instead, funding is added to a performance grant program (which covered many fewer districts in the current year) and a technology improvement grant program. The subcommittee also added language similar to that included in other budgets, threatening districts which recently re-negotiated contracts with loss of the performance funding unless the new contracts could be verified to create a 10% savings.

On the EAA front, an amended version of HB 4369 was reported out of the House Education Committee on a nearly party-line vote. After amendments on the House floor, the bill was passed by the chamber on 21 March by a vote of 57-53. The notable changes made to the bill included a phase-in of the 50 school cap, an alternative path where schools in line for takeover can request that their local ISD take them over instead, and a provision where teachers currently participating in the state school pension program would continue to do so if hired by the EAA.

The vote was almost entirely along party lines, with only three Republicans joining all Democrats in voting no. Former Democrat John Olumba of Detroit, now an independent, voted in favor of the bill.

We’ll have more detailed updates on the budget and the EAA legislation as the legislature returns from their two week break.

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