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State education and school aid budget, and revenue sources for schools

Budget Brief: Snyder's education budget proposal

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder presented his first budget proposals to the state legislature on 17 February. While it wasn't quite the "atomic bomb" Lt. Governor Brian Calley had promised, it produced shock waves nonetheless. By scrapping the Michigan Business Tax and replacing it with a much narrower corporate income tax, the proposed budget cuts business taxes by over $1 billion in 2011-12 and by $1.7 billion in the year after. To pay for this and still balance the budget, the governor wants to cut overall education spending by nearly $1.1 billion next year; his proposal also makes changes to the income tax that will increase revenues in large part by requiring retirees and low-income families to pay more in taxes. School districts may face overall reductions of $715 per pupil. Evidently, this is Gov. Snyder's vision for "reinventing Michigan."

Brief: Budget hangups

*Negotiations on a school aid budget for FY2011 ground to a halt as House and Senate conferees split on what to do with the projected School Aid Fund surplus.* After months of uncertainty, closure appeared near on the school aid budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year. A deal in principle was reached among House and Senate members on the conference committee reconciling the differences in "the two chambers' versions of the budget bill, SB 1163":http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?2010-SB-1163. The Senate version, passed before the "optimistic news from the May revenue estimation conference":http://www.miparentsforschools.org/node/127, had included further cuts of $118 per pupil plus larger transfers from the cash-strapped general fund. The revenue conference projections, however, allowed lawmakers to consider making no cuts at all for fiscal 2011. The news was good enough, in fact, that the School Aid Fund might emerge with a surplus when all was said and done. And that is where the trouble began.

A sliver of good news from the revenue conference

The State's key financial agencies released their consensus revenue estimate today, updating their predictions for state tax revenue for both this fiscal year and next. The consensus estimate for School Aid revenue for this year (2009-10) is now $10.75 billion, up $292 million (2.8%) from the estimates made in January. The estimate for next year (2010-11) is now $10.83 billion, up $352 million (3.4%) from the January estimates. These new projections may limit school aid cuts for next year to the $118 per pupil passed by the Senate earlier this spring, or possibly reduce it even more.

Status report: Where do we stand today? (Race to the Top)

For much of December, the Legislature was consumed with bills that lawmakers hoped would increase Michigan's chances to get a share of Federal "Race to the Top" funds. Money from this stimulus program would be awarded to states which came out on top in a competition which evaluated reform efforts, and Michigan might have qualified for as much as $400 million. In the end, Michigan was not chosen as one of the finalists for the first round of funding, but the changes to Michigan law enacted in late December are not voided as a result.

Status report: Where do we stand today? (Budget, Part I)

It has been a busy few months at both the state and local levels, and we at MIPFS have fallen behind in our reporting on state-wide issues. In an effort to remedy that, these status reports will give brief summaries of what has happened on the school funding front over the last few months. More detailed reports on each of these issues are coming in the next weeks. In these reports, we'll cover three areas: The school aid budget cuts for 2009-10, legislation that was part of Michigan's Race to the Top application, and school funding-related issues in the current 2010-11 budget debate.

A good race requires preparation

_The following action alert was sent out to MIPFS subscribers today._

Lets think clearly about the changes we make to qualify for Federal funding

Dear supporters of public education, This has been a busy fall for all of us at Michigan Parents for Schools, and you have have heard less from us than usual given the turmoil around education funding in Michigan. You will be hearing much more from us soon! But there is a fast-approaching issue which we wanted to bring to your attention today. Our main concern is that rapidly cobbled-together measures, designed to qualify Michigan to receive further Federal stimulus funding, will make permanent changes to our schools that have not received adequate consideration. We are especially concerned with the emphasis put on standardized testing as the primary measure of student achievement and the major factor in evaluating teachers, administrators and schools.

Facing a clouded future: options

h2. Part II: The problem, and a glimpse at solutions we might consider _In this two-part essay, MIPFS Executive Director Steve Norton reflects on the defeat of a proposed regional enhancement millage for the Washtenaw County area, and the choices it leaves school districts facing. While the details may differ, these same dilemmas face every school district in Michigan._ The poor state of Michigan's economy, combined with bad tax policy choices in earlier years, mean that school districts across Michigan are having to make huge cuts after years of belt-tightening. The defeat of the Washtenaw Schools Millage has removed one option we had to soften the blow. *But remember: we still have kids to educate. AAPS's total enrollment actually increased this year. Unlike, say, the auto industry, our schools are not in trouble because of a lack of customers. Demand for a good education has never been higher.* Moving forward, we have two issues on each of two levels: revenues and costs, at the local and state levels. Let's look at each.
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Facing a clouded future

h2. Part I: Reflections on the defeat of the Washtenaw Schools Millage _In this two-part essay, MIPFS Executive Director Steve Norton reflects on the defeat of a proposed regional enhancement millage for the Washtenaw County area, and the choices it leaves school districts facing. While the details may differ, these same dilemmas face every school district in Michigan._ We as a community will be faced with unpalatable choices as we try to close the $15 to $17 million budget gap that Ann Arbor's schools will face over the next year, with more cuts to come in the coming years. But before we can make sound choices, we must have a real understanding of what our schools do and what resources that requires. And in order to do _that,_ we must get past the caricatures which were painted during the millage campaign and instead speak to each other as real people with real concerns.
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House declines to pass K-12 budget with huge cuts

*Working against a midnight deadline, the State House could not muster enough votes to pass a School Aid budget that would have handed districts a $218 per pupil cut three months into their fiscal years.* The school aid bill, "HB 4447":http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?2009-HB-4447, emerged from a joint House-Senate conference committee last week including $482 million in cuts to K-12 funding, mostly in the form of a $218 per pupil funding cut. Part of the rationale for the deeper than expected cuts was to save some $180 million in Federal stimulus money to avoid deeper cuts next year - an election year. bq. Tell your lawmakers what you think! "Check out our action alert on the school aid budget by clicking here":http://capwiz.com/miparentsforschools/issues/alert/?alertid=14099486.

It's September 10th: do you know where your school's funding is?

*Our lawmakers are once again at a crossroads, figuring out how to manage the tremendous decline in revenues for public services, including schools. Time is running out.*

Constant readers will notice the shortage of news on the state K-12 education budget in recent months. There is a good reason: there hasn't been any.

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