education funding

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder (left), and Democratic challenger Mark Schauer (right).
Gov. Snyder's office, and Schauer campaign.

Update 11:20 a.m.

As predicted, the debate rages on.

Tons of people have written about this issue over the last year, and today the Citizens Research Council released some more analysis on this question, so we thought we'd add their findings to this post we published last May. (Our investigative reporter, Lester Graham, is also looking into this question and will have more for us in the coming weeks.)

What did the Citizens Research Council find?

You can read the full-report here, but in short they tackled these three questions:

There's a state law that gives a special board up to $50 million that can be loaned to struggling school districts.

The long-term, low-interest loans are supposed to help these districts restructure and pay down their debt.

But this emergency loan board has already given out $48 million. That’s 97% of the money that was supposed to last until 2018.

How did this happen? And is there a way for struggling school districts to get back on their feet without needing an emergency manager or having to ask for another loan?

Jeff Guilfoyle with Public Sector Consultants joined us today to talk about this problem.

*Listen to the interview below.

Yesterday, I talked about the challenges the University of Michigan’s new president faces. One of those is, of course, the fact that it is becoming increasingly difficult to afford an education.

That provoked a lot of reaction, and I was surprised by the tone of a lot of it.

Specifically, many people feel that especially with the lagging economy, it makes no sense for students to study things that won’t clearly pay off in a job.

"There's nothing wrong with art appreciation. There are plenty of books, DVDs and YouTube clips out there," one man said. But he thought it was outrageous that someone would spend a vast amount of money on something "that will turn out to be a nice hobby," and then "complain about the lack of job opportunities."

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder is taking on "misinformation" over his record of funding public schools before putting forward his next budget.

Since the Republican governor took office, he says, state aid to K-12 districts is up an average of $660 per student. But House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel says the figure is "simply untrue."

Until a few years ago, the primary marker of school funding was Michigan's per-pupil grant. Now Michigan is picking up some of the ballooning retirement costs instead of including the money in districts' traditional aid.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Buena Vista schools will become the second district to be permanently dissolved under a new state law this week.

After Buena Vista shut down without warning in May, state legislators decided they needed an additional tool to deal with fiscal emergencies besides the emergency manager law.

The new law requires financially troubled districts to prove they have enough money to make it through an entire school year. If not, they can be dissolved. That happened to Inkster's school district last week.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

About 250 Albion and Marshall high school students will spend the weekend getting to know one another.

The students are attending a weekend long ‘symposium’ at Albion college.

More than a hundred Albion students will be attending Marshall High School this fall.

Albion school officials decided to close their high school in a budget cutting move.

Jerri-Lynn Williams-Harper is Albion’s school superintendent. She says this weekend will help build relationships between the two student bodies.

Marshall High School
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Albion students are a step closer to knowing where they’ll be going to high school this fall.

Albion High School is closing for budget reasons.    The district will continue to provide K through 8 education. 

The Marshall school board voted last night to open its high school to Albion’s students.  Albion’s school board will vote on the cooperative agreement next week.    

cncphotos / flickr

This week in Michigan politics, Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry discuss the sentencing of former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway, former Congressman’s Mark Schauer’s run for governor, and a proposed funding increase for education in the state budget this year.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice sentenced to jail time

“Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway was sentenced to one year and one day in federal custody, for the crime of bank fraud. Federal prosecutors say Diane Hathaway illegally concealed a million dollars in assets, so she could qualify for favorable terms on a short sale of one of her homes in Michigan. The defendant had hoped to avoid prison time,” Michigan Radio's Vincent Duffy reports.

Michigan schools could see increase in state funding

“Michigan public schools would see more state funding under a budget plan approved by the state House. Every school would see at least a five-dollar per-pupil boost. Schools getting the minimum amount from the state could receive up to 60 dollars more per student. The state Senate is expected to take up the education budget today,” Michigan Radio’s Jake Neher reports.

Strong winds and funnel clouds cause damage in Michigan

"The National Weather Service reported several funnel cloud sightings in Michigan last night, including a tornado that landed near Goodrich High School southeast of Flint. No injuries were immediately reported. The weather service says high winds in the same severe thunderstorm system heavily damaged several homes, toppling numerous trees and power lines," the Associated Press reports.

Jane M Sawyer / morgue file

Michigan public schools would get a three-percent overall funding boost under a plan in the state Legislature.

It comes up for final votes next week.

No school would get less money per student than it did last year under a plan approved by a state budget panel.

Lawmakers added language that would guarantee every school gets at least five dollars more per student than last year. Without that provision, some schools could have seen cuts because of reduced payments to cover teacher retirement costs. 

Schools that get the minimum amount of state funding right now could see up to $60 more per student next fiscal year. That total amount is right around $7,000 per student.

The bill now goes to the floors of the state House and Senate.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Michigan schools have been in headlines for a while now: For many, the mention of Buena Vista schools instantly calls up an image of a closed public school.

Michigan Radio's Cynthia Canty spoke with Eric Scoresone, an economist at Michigan State University, and Michelle Richard, a senior consultant at Public Sector Consultants in Lansing.

One of the biggest problems for schools is receiving funding based on a per student basis, Richard said.

"There were 1,000 students at Buena Vista in 2009-2010, and now there are only 400. You can only cut so quickly and if you don't have kids in seats then you are forced to make challenging decisions."

Business leaders and others share their thoughts on the future of Michigan’s education system Monday.

The Governor’s Education Summit comes just on the heels of revelations about a secret education reform work group in Lansing—and questions about how much the Governor’s vision for public education jibes with theirs.

If there’s agreement on anything having to do with education policy in Michigan, it is that we aren’t getting the results we need.

Too many students are emerging from school with too few skills to make them competitive for jobs, not to mention the intellectual resources to live fulfilled and happy lives.

And our leaders are locked in increasingly bitter debates over what to do about this. Democrats blame conservatives for cutting education budgets and demonizing teachers and their unions. Republicans want to divert funding from traditional public schools and encourage parents to let free enterprise charter schools do the job.

But now there is significant evidence that both sets of arguments miss the real reason many Susies and Johnnies can’t read. The problem is that we are focusing on the wrong age group.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Majority Republicans in the Michigan Legislature are split over spending plans for K-12 schools, public universities and community colleges.

Budgets that moved forward Wednesday include a difference over punishing public employers for signing long contracts before the right-to-work law took effect.

Other rifts include how much to boost preschool funding for at-risk 4-year-olds and whether to give K-12 schools a bigger boost in their per-pupil funding or more for employee retirement costs.

The House Appropriations Committee approved a $15 billion education budget that restricts or cuts funding for the University of Michigan and other publicly funded entities that agreed to new contracts with employee unions before March 28. Workers must continue paying union dues or fees until the contracts end.

Senate budget subcommittees are passing budgets without right-to-work penalties.

University of Michigan

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

As funding for higher education experiences drastic cuts, tuition continues to increase nationwide. 

Now, colleges and universities are looking at how they have contributed to the economic situation facing institutions of higher education. 

Michigan Radio's Cynthia Canty spoke with James Duderstadt concerning the economic climate among institutions of higher education.

James Duderstadt,a former president of the University of Michigan, is an important voice in the national conversation among higher education institutions. Mr. Duderstadt currently serves on the National Academies Commission on the Future of the American Research University.

Stateside: Study surveys the state of education in Michigan

Jan 22, 2013
http://thecenterformichigan.net/

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio file.

A recent study called “The Public’s Agenda for Public Education” surveyed more than 5,000 Michigan residents to learn how to best improve public education.

John Bebow, president and chief executive of the Center for Michigan and Amber Toth, outreach director for the Center for Michigan, were both involved in the study.

They spoke today with Cyndy about the survey and the state’s future goals for education reform.

“Those who most need that economic ladder that a great education provides, are feeling least well served by today’s system,” said Bebow.

One student with whom Bebow spoke was using dated textbooks.

“We had a student in a community conversation say, ‘my government textbook says Ronald Reagan was the last president.’ We had other people at the opposite end of the spectrum concerned about how we spend money. There are so many concerns expressed. This survey is by no means a lambasting of the education service industry. People are concerned…” said Bebow.

Stateside: Higher education at the core of Michigan's revival

Jan 3, 2013
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Creating cities with educated populations will play a large role in Michigan's revitalization.

Lou Glazer, President and co-founder of Michigan Future Inc., says that globalization and technology are more powerful in creating a new Michigan than politics or policy.

“You have to be inventing what’s next," he said.

Glazer's new agenda aims to create a city in which talent wants to live.

To do so, he claims, there has to be a high population of college-educated citizens.

“The places that are doing the best... have a community DNA that values learning, entrepreneurship and being welcoming to all," said Glazer.

For more of Glazer's interview, listen to the audio above.

There are two ways you can podcast "Stateside with Cynthia Canty"

(courtesy of KQED)

The Education Achievement Authority (EAA), Michigan’s new reform school district, has been selected as the state’s only finalist in the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top-District competition.

The EAA is one of 61 finalists nationwide, competing for close to $400 million in federal funds.

Tyrone Winfrey is the Chief of Staff for the EAA. He says he's optimistic about snagging the funds.

"I think we were chosen because it's not a one-size-fits-all model," he said, "and it's basically educating students where they are, individually, within those classrooms."

If awarded the top prize, $40 million, Winfrey says his district would fund professional development and leadership training for the schools' staff members in order to better prepare students for jobs and college.

The awards are meant to support locally developed plans to personalize student learning, prepare college-ready students, and close achievement gaps.

From the Department of Education:

“These finalists are setting the curve for the rest of the country with innovative plans to drive education reform in the classroom,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said.

“This competition was designed to support local efforts to close the achievement gap and transform the learning environment in a diverse set of districts, but no matter who wins, children across the country will benefit from the clear vision and track records of success demonstrated by these finalists.”

The EAA was instituted in 2011 to operate the lowest performing five percent of schools in the state.

It began this school year with 15 Detroit schools and is expected to expand statewide. New legislation would cement the reform district into state law.

It's part of an education overhaul being promoted by Governor Snyder.

Opponents call the new district “impersonal,” saying it would erode local control of schools districts.

The Department of Education will select 15 to 25 districts for four-year awards ranging from $5 million to $40 million.

Award winners are expected to be announced by the end of the year.

- Jordan Wyant and Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Sorting out Michigan's proposed education overhaul

Nov 21, 2012
James F Clay / flickr

In recent days there has been much made of a proposed overhaul to Michigan’s education system.

The overhaul consists of three parts:

  • two bills currently working their way through the state House and Senate,
  • and one draft of a bill that has yet to be introduced.

The bills are part of a package devised in part by Governor Rick Snyder’s education advisor Richard McLellan in an attempt to achieve the Governor’s goal of providing an “Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace” learning model.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A proposal that Gov. Rick Snyder commissioned to overhaul Michigan's education system would let students take their public funding to any district that will accept them, enroll in state-funded online learning courses and get $2,500 in scholarship money for each semester they graduate early from high school.

The Detroit Free Press says a group that Michigan's Republican governor asked to propose revisions to the state's K-12 school finance system will release a draft of its bill Monday.

Michigan State University Press

Is Michigan better off than it was four years ago? The question is important when assessing the progress of both our state’s citizens and the politicians who govern it.

To further investigate this question, Stateside’s Cyndy Canty spoke with Michigan State University Economics Professor, Dr. Charley Ballard.

Although no simple answer to this question exists, Ballard felt generally positive about our state’s status.

“For the state as a whole, I would say the state is definitely better off than it was three years ago.”

University of Michigan Flint
User acrylicartist / MorgueFile.com

Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill today that calls for investment in infrastructure projects at Michigan's colleges and universities.

The bills funnel more than $300 million into 18 projects on college campuses across the state.

Snyder approved the bills at Wayne State University in Detroit. That school will get $30 million for a new bio-medical research facility.

Wayne State President Allan Gilmour says that will involve refurbishing a now-defunct Cadillac dealership, and construction for at least one brand-new building.

A Republican lawmaker wants to dock Michigan State and Wayne State universities millions of dollars in state aid for skirting the intent of a law meant to hold down tuition increases.    

State Representative Bob Genetski chairs the House higher education budget subcommittee. He says Michigan State and Wayne State used a calendar trick to exceed a seven percent cap on tuition increases. Governor Rick Snyder’s budget director ruled – grudgingly – that the two universities are in technical compliance with the law, but Genetski says that’s not good enough.

“The spirit of what we wanted to protect people from has been violated.”

Genetski has submitted an amended higher education budget that would dock MSU $18 million dollars and Wayne State $17 million dollars. Genetski says every other state university complied with both the letter and the spirit of the tuition restraint law. 

A Michigan State spokesman says the Legislature should not continue a pattern of disinvestment that’s cost the university a quarter of its public funding since 2001.

Woodley Wonder Works / Flickr

 A new report, released by the Citizen's Research Council, says declining enrollment is one reason many Michigan public schools are facing financial struggles. From the Associated Press:

About 61 percent of Michigan's 551 traditional public school districts faced some degree of declining enrollment between the state's 1995 and 2009 fiscal years...

It's an important factor because much of the state aid that goes to school districts is granted on a per-student basis. The report says about half of Michigan's school districts saw a decline in their total state aid foundation revenue between the 1995 and 2009 fiscal years once it's adjusted for inflation.

The report says the per-student gap between the state's highest and lowest funded districts has shrunk but still exists.

The 87 page report, titled Distribution of State Aid to Michigan Schools, can be found here.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

More than a thousand children and their parents are expected to mark the start of the school year at a park in Grand Rapids Tuesday afternoon. Hundreds of kids swarmed Clemente Park Monday evening; jumping in a bounce house, getting their faces painted, eating hot dogs, and signing up for afterschool programs.

Grand Rapids Public Schools is hosting the parties to get parents information and kids excited about the new school year. For four year-round schools in Grand Rapids, classes start this Thursday.

Woodley Wonderworks / Flickr

The amount of money Michigan has to spend in its general fund for everything from prisons to health care dropped by nearly 25 percent over the past four fiscal years amid the recession and shrinking tax revenues. Yet the state's school aid fund remained relatively healthy, protected by earmarks for public schools.

State budget director John Nixon thinks those earmarks merit another look.

"It's not that I'm saying we need to cut the school aid fund ... (but) a lot of this stuff was put in place 15, 20 years ago when Michigan looked totally different," he said during a recent interview with The Associated Press. "We just need to strip things down and say, `This is the money we're bringing in, this is where it's going. Is it lining up appropriately?"'

Nearly three-quarters of the sales tax collected annually goes to the $13.3 billion school aid fund, as well as nearly a fourth of the income tax revenue, 42 percent of cigarette tax revenue and a third of the money raised by the use tax and the Michigan Business Tax. The school aid fund also receives all of the money raised through a statewide 6-mill education property tax, the real estate transfer tax, the state casino wagering tax and the net proceeds from lottery sales.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Kids still enjoy the playground at Stocking Elementary School. The school in Grand Rapids was closed last year to save money. State Representative Roy Schmidt used the shuttered school as a backdrop while telling people Michigan’s fund for K-through-12 schools had a surplus this year.

“We had the money, it just got switched somewhere else.”

Matthileo / Flicker

It appears a deal was struck between Republicans and Democrats in the state Senate in order for Governor Rick Snyder’s tax overhaul to be voted on yesterday by Democratic state Senators. Chris Christoff, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Detroit Free Press, reports:

A quiet deal from Senate Republicans to give public schools an extra $150 million next year helped smooth the way Thursday for the 20-19 Senate vote to cut business taxes by $1.7 billion, tax pensions and do away with many tax exemptions.

Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, confirmed the GOP's offer. It came in exchange for all Democrats going on the record with their votes. If any had not voted, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley couldn't have voted to break a 19-19 tie. A 19-19 tie (the Senate has 38 members) is the only circumstance under which a lieutenant governor can vote…

The deal would lessen a Senate-approved cut to K-12 schools from $225 per pupil less than this year, to $75 per pupil less than this year.

In a piece yesterday on Mlive.com, Peter Luke also mentions a deal:

Preserving the 19-19 vote that allowed Calley to break the tie required all 12 Democrats to vote "no." If one had declined to vote, there's no tie and the measure would have failed.

Democrats agreed to all vote in exchange for a promise that a good chunk of the extra tax revenue anticipated for FY 2012 will mitigate cuts in K-12 education.

A lot of people are uneasy about Governor Rick Snyder’s proposal to cut aid to education at all levels in order to balance the budget and give business a huge tax break. Even some of those in favor of cutting business taxes have problems with this.

They reason that no matter what happens, there aren’t going to be any jobs in the future for unskilled, undereducated workers -- and certainly not any good-paying ones. Our young adults are undereducated as it is, and cutting education won’t help.

So yesterday, we were alerted that the Michigan Senate Democrats were going to offer an alternate proposal. I was very interested to see what it would be. And frankly, I was hoping it would be an alternative I could support.

That’s because I am convinced that better education and training, more than anything else, is the key to Michigan’s future.

Well, I couldn’t have been more disappointed in the Democrats -- or in Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, a charismatic and intelligent figure who may be their best hope for the future.

The minority leader called for a state constitutional amendment that would prevent the governor from taking money out of the school aid fund in the future.  In practical terms, this is the equivalent of my calling for an amendment requiring it to be seventy degrees so I don’t freeze when I walk the dog in the morning. 

First of all, this does nothing to address this year’s problems. Even if the legislature thought this was a good idea, they’d have to agree to put it on a statewide ballot so people could vote on it.

That wouldn’t happen until long after this budget has been passed. But the legislature isn’t going to do any such thing. Republicans control both chambers. Democrats are especially weak in the Senate, where Gretchen Whitmer’s party has less than a third of the seats, and by themselves are powerless to do anything.

That’s not the worst part of her proposal, however. When she presented it to the media yesterday, she was asked this sensible question: If her proposal became law, how would Democrats then propose to fill the resulting deficit hole in the general fund?

The Senate minority leader refused to offer an answer -- other than to say the tax code should be “re-examined.”

This is precisely what has been wrong with Michigan government for the past decade, and what got the Democrats tossed out of office last fall. This is also why Governor Snyder’s plan is likely to be enacted. The governor has made a comprehensive proposal for changing the way things are done.

His numbers add up.