Budget deal includes $175 per-pupil spending cut

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Republican legislative leaders announced a tentative agreement this week to address the projected $2.2 billion shortfall in this year's state budget. The agreement, which makes use of federal coronavirus-related assistance, applies to the current fiscal year that ends on September 30. Despite $950 million in federal aid earmarked for coronavirus spending, the a further $1.2 billion in spending cuts or transfers from the state reserve are needed, with K-12 school aid slated for a $256 million reduction (about $175 per pupil) in the current year.

Budgeting in the time of COVID-19

Even in these difficult times, we need to be aware of the potential trouble looming ahead.

Early estimates from the state Treasury Department indicate that the state budget could have a $1 to 3 billion hole in the current fiscal year, with a $1 to 4 billion shortfall in 2020-21. Much of this comes from sales tax and income tax revenues, which, you will remember, make up the bulk of School Aid Fund revenues.

Special sections: 

"What's goin' on?"

These are frustrating times for those of us who fight for strong local public education. Elections have consequences, but they don't change everything. Attacks on community-governed public schools have slowed, but we still have to come up with a strong plan for constructive change. There is great opportunity, but some very large challenges remain ahead of us.

In this issue:
  • School aid budget: promise and politics
  • Detroit literacy suit: is everything better now? (See our op-ed in the Detroit News.)
  • A new direction: building coalitions for strong schools that serve the public

It's lame duck, and that means mischief!

Haven't we been here before?

As my "gap year" comes to a close, so does the current legislative session. Mischief is most likely to occur during the "lame duck" session, after elections but before the legislature adjourns and all bills not yet passed are void. I'd hoped this one would be quiet on the education front, but that was not to be.

  • Innovation strikes again: HB 6314 & HB 6315 go to the Senate
  • Letter grades for schools still fail: HB 5526 lurks in the House

Tell Lansing: take the politics out of our curriculum!

Dear Friends,

Gap year or no, there will always be important issues we need to bring to your attention, and this is one. So we're delaying our usual state budget coverage (mildly good news - it's an election year, after all) to alert you to something very strange going on in Lansing that shapes what our children will be taught in school.

A planned refresh of the Michigan social studies content standards has apparently been hijacked by some folks with an extreme political agenda, and many of the changes they desired are in the current final draft. There's still time to take action to stop this nonsense, and we'll give you the info below.

MIPFS testimony on A-F school grading bill

Chairman Kelly and members of the committee:

We're here today to offer our reaction to HB 5526, which would enact A-F letter grades and other rankings for public school accountability as well as create a new commission to oversee the process. Unfortunately, seen from a parent perspective, this bill would make it harder rather than easier for parents and local community members to oversee and improve their local public schools. It would, in fact, have the effect of removing parent voice from the process.


Legislative update: Snyder budget gives schools a bump; school letter grading rides again

Winter is ending, which means it's budget time in Lansing. It's also an election year, which means we're likely to see a mix of generosity, grandstanding, and horsetrading as lawmakers try to burnish their records before facing primary and general election voters. Here are some of the top recent developments:

  • Snyder school aid budget gives bump to schools, cuts sketchy earmarks; fate in legislature is uncertain
    • January revenue estimation conference sees increase for School Aid Fund but less so for main state budget; charter schools forecast for first-ever fall in enrollment
    • The School Aid Fund will now pick up the entire community college budget and cover one third of all state spending on colleges and universities
  • A-F grades for schools lurches back into spotlight; measure skips summative grade but creates new commission of political appointees
  • In wake of Florida school shootings, House committee chair says that "guns in schools" bills not likely to see action anytime soon
  • House committee passes bills allowing tax break on private school tuition for the well-heeled; measures also force districts to cost out all their services - for no apparent reason
  • Snyder signs bill giving charters a cut of regional enhancement millages, after a notably close vote in the House

Better grab a cup of coffee!

Year-end review, and some news

Dear Friends,

Before we all become fully enmeshed in the holiday season, I wanted to bring you up to date on issues that concern parents like us as well as share some news.

In this issue:

  •  "Guns in schools" bills, and "teen concealed carry" bill, held over until January
  •  "Vouchers for the wealthy" bills also waiting until January
  •  Taking a "gap year," and holding lawmakers accountable

Letter from Oakland: reflections on NPE 2017

As I write this, the fourth annual meeting of the Network for Public Education is coming to a close. NPE is a national group dedicated to fighting for local public education, and was founded just a few years ago by education luminaries like historian Diane Ravitch and teacher/writer Anthony Cody. The meeting, in Oakland, CA, drew hundreds of education advocates from all around the country and featured panels on everything from building advocacy coalitions to the role of technology in education.

It seems to me, though, that one thread running throughout the conference was the need to continue to address issues of race and class in the struggle over the future of public education.


Letter to Senate: stop the "guns in schools" bills

Dear Majority Leader Meekhof and members of the Senate,

On behalf of parent advocates across the state of Michigan, I can only say that we are stunned that the state Senate has chosen not only to revive, but to fast-track, legislation that would end most restrictions on who can bring deadly firearms into our public schools and other sensitive areas. There is simply no excuse for this kind of reckless legislation, which solves no problems but potentially endangers many innocents.

In only one hour of committee hearings, you and your colleagues have moved forward a package of bills that not only strips local school districts of the power to control weapons in their own school buildings, but guts the original agreement that underlies the “shall issue” legislation for concealed pistol licenses. Former Gov. John Engler insisted that certain gun-free zones be included before he would sign that legislation. These bills would sweep that compromise away.


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In the news

MIPFS on the state's brief claiming the Detroit literacy lawsuit is "moot."

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

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