End of the last illusions

Past commitments to school aid fade away

Updated with final conference report

None of the school aid budget proposals for next year offer significant help to our struggling local school districts. Overall funding is essentially flat, though the dollars are allocated differently in the various proposals. For a detailed breakdown of the final budget and the alternatives as passed by each chamber, please see this companion story.

Nevertheless, the budget bills do outline some major changes in how we fund our schools:

  • Use of the School Aid Fund to support community colleges and state universities is now a permanent feature (the final conference report includes intent language to change the name of the SAF to the “Comprehensive Education Fund”);
  • The commitment to maintaining the funding stream for K-12 education has been seriously eroded – for example, with the failure to replace earmarked revenue lost when the Michigan Business Tax was ended.
Special sections: 

Truly, enough is enough

“I love empowering parents” – interim House Education chair Tom McMillin (R-Rochester) on passing SB 619

I am furious and disgusted.

Furious that once again, the education budgets now under discussion continue to strangulate our community-governed, local public schools. Disgusted that the raft of policies enacted in the last year which erode public education and public schools are described by their supporters as somehow “empowering parents.” Orwell couldn’t have done better.

Let’s review the last year in legislation, shall we?

Historical Amnesia: Schools don't need that money, do they?

Talk of an ever-growing flow of money to schools is, like many such things, wildly exaggerated. But it does serve to frame the debate about school funding in such a way that cutting schools seems only “fair.”

We started to hear it during the debate over next year’s state budget. Lawmakers backing the governor’s budget responded to constituents worried about cuts to K-12 schools with two, oddly contradictory, palliatives: that money for schools continued to “pour in” even though there were fewer students; and that “getting spending in line with reality means understanding our lack of revenue.” Sometimes these earnest-sounding claims were in the same paragraph.

The most recent example of this effort to depict schools as awash in cash comes in an interview of State Budget Director John Nixon by the AP’s Kathy Barks Hoffman.

Framing: More Powerful Than A Locomotive

Not long ago, I had the good fortune to find a seat at a special screening of the new documentary "Waiting for Superman" in Ann Arbor. The documentary is a skillfully constructed view of how our urban public schools often fail their students, though it is not without some serious faults. (Many of those are discussed better, elsewhere.) But the film overreaches when it tries to claim that because some urban schools are in trouble, the entirety of American public education is in trouble. That claim, for which the film provides no evidence, motivates the film's call for radical reform. But if the problems are not so endemic, and if different schools struggle with different issues, maybe the answer is more complicated, and varied, as well.


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In the news

MIPFS is working with parent group 482Forward, ACLU Michigan, and many school groups to ensure public funding goes to public schools.

MIPFS also contributed considerable background to this article, raising serious questions about the strategy of closing schools.

MIPFS presents to the State Board of Education

Founder of our Forest Hills affiliate testifies before State Board, 9 May 2013

Our op-ed on the EAA's failure and why the Parent Proposal embodied in HB 5268 is a better alternative. MLive.com, 9 Feb 2014

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