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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.

The table below outlines some of the most important provisions of the budget, contrasting the Governor's, House, and Senate versions. As both subcommittee chairs said, their alternative bills were meant to "start discussions." For parents and other concerned citizens to have a voice in that discussion, we need to know what is going on and what is at stake. Use this table to familiarize yourself with the alternatives and then join the discussion with gusto. There's lots to choose from.

Things to note:

  • Higher per-pupil funding in the subcommittee versions is intended to mask much less generous provisions below;
  • House and Senate both commit to giving for-profit cyber charters the same funding as regular schools;
  • House and Senate both offer less funding than the Executive does for at-risk students;
  • Senate wants to reduce off-the-top payment into MPSERS, increasing burden on local districts which must do so from their per-pupil funding;
  • House and Senate keep the controversial payments to private schools for "state mandates" like background checks and fire drills;
  • House also wants to commit millions to developing a "value added growth model" for teacher evaluations, despite cutting funding for training on the evaluation systems (value added modeling is a problematic statistical technique which tries to sort out how much a single teacher contributed to student growth - but information available to schools doesn't allow that to be done with any hope of accuracy);
  • House also continues to fund several "pet projects" of dubious merit and confers a blessing on a particular preschool curriculum published by a for-profit company.

This is your government at work! But ask yourself: who, precisely, are they working for?

Provision Executive recommendation House alternative
(HB 4313 H-1, Article I, as passed House )
Senate alternative
(SB 149 S-1, as passed Senate)
Total State spending $12,575,145,300 $12,582,507,200 $12,560,762,000
The "Sweetener"
Foundation allowance Increase between $50 and $100, using 2x formula Increase of $100 per pupil for all schools Increase between $88 and $176 under 2x formula, using funds from MPSERS offset
From the files of the Department of Bitter Irony
The bills delete from the School Aid Act all definitions of, and references to, the Education Achievement Authority, an Achievement School, or an Education Achievement System. Four and a half years after the bitter fights over statewide expansion of the infamous EAA, the system which has been running 15 Detroit schools since 2012 will be dissolved at the end of the current fiscal year.
(Mostly) Good Ideas The Legislature Nixed or Reduced
Per-pupil funding for cyber charters Reduced to 80% of "brick and mortar" schools No change - same as all other schools No change - same as all other schools
At-risk funding (extra funds for students living in poverty) Changes from 11.5% of a district's foundation allowance for each child eligible for free lunch, to:
  • 11.5% of statewide weighted average foundation (giving same amount for all districts), including students eligible for reduced price lunch and other programs (together, called "economically disadvantaged"
  • Allows hold-harmless and "out of formula" districts to receive funds for the first time
  • Increases funding by $150 million, which at $529 million comes close to fully funding this provision for the first time
  • Requires districts to use the funds to increase English language proficiency in grade 3 and career and college readiness (existing rules), and in addition to address chronic absenteeism, and to improve math proficiency by grade 8
Accepts changes to definitions of eligibility, but reduces funding increase to $129.1 million, and gives hold harmless and out-of-formula districts half the amount other districts receive. Accepts change in definitions of eligibility, but only increases funding by $95 million. All districts receiving funds this year would receive the same amount next year, and newly eligible districts would receive a flat $60 per eligible pupil.
High School per pupil bonus Spends $22 million to give districts an extra $50 per pupil for every high school student (grades 9-12), to account for the higher costs of running high school programs. Deletes this change. Deletes this change.
MPSERS cost offset and new "normal cost" offset Continues to allocate $100 million off the top from the School Aid Fund to paying down public school retirement system unfunded liabilities (before foundation allowances are calculated); adds new funding to cushion increase in costs from lowering assumed investment returns Accepts Governor's proposal Eliminates this payment and uses it to increase foundation allowance (meaning funds also go to charter schools, which mostly do not have MPSERS costs to offset)
Declining enrollment Spends $7 million to help districts with enrollment declines of over 5% in the last two years spread their funding reductions over the next two years Does not include Does not include
Statewide school drinking water quality program Moved from MDE budget, $4.5 million to reimburse schools for voluntary drinking water testing Does not include Does not include, apparently on the theory that having tested the water once, it never needs to be done again.
Continued evaluation system training Spends $7 million to fund continued professional development and training to implement teacher and administrator evaluations required since 2015. Does not include (but, see below) Does not include
OK, not the greatest idea...
State School Reform/Redesign Office Maintains current law and funding for the SRO and districts with a state-imposed CEO Eliminates funding Left provision in the budget, but with a $100 placeholder
But... they also dump this potentially good idea
Partnership model districts Spends $3 million of school aid fund (plus other funds in MDE budget) to support the MDE's "school partnership model" which involves active intervention and consultation with struggling schools and districts, before any state takeover. Does not include any funding for the partnership model (in either School Aid or MDE budgets) Left provision in the budget, but with a $100 placeholder
Things That Should Have Been Cut, But Weren't
Shared-time instruction for private and homeschool students Caps reimbursements to local districts allowing other students to take classes to $60 million, an approximate $55 million cut from current levels Keeps current law- districts would get payments for part time students without a cap Sets cap at only $2 million below current levels, limits to 0.75 FTE per student
"Competency-based" transcript and marketplace pilot Eliminates funding for the pilot, which was aimed at finding ways to make transcripts portable and have students earn credit by showing "competency" rather than completing regular coursework. Put in a $100 placeholder to expand these kinds of programs Also eliminates funding
Reimbursements to private schools for state "mandates" Eliminates this $2.5 million item, currently under legal challenge (by a coalition of education groups including MIPFS) Maintains current funding (subcommittee chair Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw Twp., inserted this provision last year), and also adds funds to private schools for FIRST Robotics and Science Olympiad. Maintains current funding
Value-added growth model -- House includes new section, spending $2.5 million GF to develop a statewide "value-added growth and projection analytics system" to use in evaluations. --
Legal action against the state -- House adds language that would penalize any district or ISD which spent funds on a legal action against the state by deducting that amount from state aid payments. (This was perhaps motivated by the recent suit filed by many education groups, including Kalamazoo Public Schools, contesting the legality of the reimbursements to private schools described above. MIPFS is a party to that suit.) --
Collective bargaining agreement penalty -- House adds language that would impose a penalty of 5% of state aid for any district or ISD which approved a contract including any of several items which are "prohibited subjects of bargaining" or otherwise not allowed. This is despite the fact that such language would not be enforceable under current law in any case. --
Online algebra "tool" Eliminates $1.5 million funding for this item Championed by subcommittee chair Kelly, House keeps $1 million of this funding, which goes to the one company which effectively received this earmark Kept $1.2 million in funding for the program.
Other earmarks and pet projects Would eliminate $250,000 targeted STEM-related grant to the Van Andel Education Institute, a Grand Rapids-based nonprofit specifically named in the current year's budget.
  • Retains $150,000 for Van Andel Institute
  • Inserts provision that would effectively ban the HighScope Educational Research Foundation from performing long term evaluation of Great Start Readiness Program impact, despite their long research experience with the Perry Preschool Project and Head Start evaluation
  • Mandates, in statute, that a particular early childhood curriculum, "Connect4Learning," published by a for-profit company, must be accepted by MDE as an age-appropriate, approved curriculum for GSRP programs


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