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House Dems propose smaller K12 increase, bigger equity payment, for FY08

Departing from the Governor's proposals, House Democrats have moved a bill that would increase foundation allowances by only $100 for next year, but give most districts an additional $100 equity payment. Governor's proposal trimmed The amended version of HB4359, the School Aid appropriations bill for fiscal 2008, passed the School Aid and Education Appropriations subcommittee on a party line vote. The bill increases overall spending on school aid by $295 million compared to this year, but comes in $42 million short of the Governor's original recommendation. The subcommittee appears to be trying to satisfy calls for more equity in school spending while still giving all districts at least a modest increase. While all districts will receive a $100 increase in their foundation allowance, those currently receiving less than $7,669 per pupil would receive a further $100 as an "equity payment." The basic foundation allowance would be $7,208 under these provisions, up from $7,085 and incorporating a $23 per pupil equity payment made this year. The Gov. Granholm's proposal had given districts an across-the-board $178 per pupil increase (on top of the incorporated $23 equity payment). The amended bill retains transition funding for districts which are losing enrollment. Source of funding uncertain Funding for the bill presumes additional revenues for school aid, which have yet to be agreed upon in the House. The subcommittee also increased the transfer from the state's General Fund to $50 million from the current $35 million. The bill made other changes in school-related funding: in an effort to address complaints that some far-flung districts deserved credit for their added transportation expenses, $20 million was earmarked for districts larger than 156 square miles or with fewer than 5 pupils per square mile. The subcommittee modified a major new preschool initiative proposed by the governor, but included $170 million in funding for the programs. A number of other programs were cut, including a $20 middle-school math and science program, in parallel with the governor's proposal. Call to study teacher pay In a related move, the subcommittee approved the draft appropriations bill funding the state Department of Education, and included $350,000 for a comparative study of Michigan teachers' pay and benefits. Rep. Matt Gillard (D-Alpena), the subcommittee chair, argued that the legislature needed to establish whether teacher pay and benefits were as generous as widely described; Republicans on the committee insisted that more than enough proof already exists.
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