Bigger budgets

Four things to know about the education proposals in Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s 2019 budget

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder will decide whether dozens of Detroit schools could face closure.

In his eighth and final state budget address Wednesday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder detailed his proposal to give the schools their largest funding increase in 15 years. The Republican governor  also proposed extra cash for special education and career and technical training. The proposals — part of Snyder’s $56.8 billion draft budget — now go to the legislature. Lawmakers hope to strike a final deal with Snyder by June so the 2019 budget can take effect when the fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

Among the governor’s education proposals:

More money for all state schools

In a state where some districts have historically gotten much more money per student than others, lower-funded districts would get a bigger bump from the governor’s proposal. If Snyder’s proposal is approved by the legislature, districts now getting the minimum per pupil funding amount ($7,631) will get an extra $240 per student — a 3.1 percent increase. That would affect about 75 percent of traditional schools,  including Detroit’s main district, as well as all of the state’s charter schools. Districts that get more money per student — those that had higher funding levels when the state first enacted its current funding system in the 1990s, and get as much as $8,409 per student— would see an extra $120 per student.

The bump in per-student funding would be the largest since the 2001-02 fiscal year, when funding was increased by $500 per pupil. The 2006-07 budget was the only time since then that the minimum amount was increased by more than $200. “This is a significant increase and would close the equity gap between the high and low from the time we started (in office) by over 50 percent, which is very significant because we have many districts that are at the minimum,” Snyder said in the address.

Dan Quisenberry, who heads the state’s charter school association, applauded the governor’s proposal to give charter schools and districts at the low end of the funding scale an increase in funds that’s twice the size of the increase going to districts at the top of the scale. “We continue to support the recommendation that addresses the unfair funding gap that exists in our state,” Quisenberry said. “Every public school student in Michigan deserves the same opportunity at a quality education, and that can only happen if we value all students equally.”

 

The money will be distributed using the same formula the state has used for decades

Though a prominent group of education and business leaders recently issued a major report calling on the state to dramatically change the way it funds schools, Snyder’s proposal sticks with the state’s traditional funding formula. The report, a product of nearly two years and $900,000 in research, called for schools to get more money for needier students. It proposed a formula that would send schools 35 percent more for students living in poverty, between 50 and 70 percent more for students who are learning English, and up to 115 percent more for students with disabilities. Snyder’s budget has no extra money for any groups and, like past budgets, would send schools the same amount of money per student regardless of need.

Robert Moore, the deputy superintendent of Oakland Schools, who is one of the leaders of the group behind the study, the School Finance Research Collaborative, said that’s a mistake.

“It’s always good news there’s a funding increase,” Moore said, “but the problem is it’s not addressing the inequities. The funding is not based on any reasonable basis. It’s just an incremental change in a positive direction on a broken, outdated system. While we are welcoming the additional funding, it is in no way being done in a manner consistent in what we know about how much services cost for students in districts and charter schools across the state. It’s a long way to go.”

 

Funding for special education would also go up — at least for the state’s youngest children

The Republican governor proposed increasing state spending in Michigan’s Early On program, which offers intervention services for infants and toddlers with developmental delays or disabilities, and their families. The budget would add an extra $5 million to a program that now gets $1.4 billion.

Snyder did not propose an increase for the K-12 special education program despite an alarming study released by the state last year that found Michigan schools spend almost $700 million more every year on special education than they get from the state. The shortfall means schools have to take money from their regular programs to pay for mandated services and therapies to help children with special needs. A number of studies in recent months have called on the state to increase special education funding for K-12 education, including the School Finance Research Collaborative and the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren.

 

School districts could get up to $50 per student to expand career and technical training programs.

The proposed increase is believed to be the first per-pupil funding boost for career and technical education programs. That’s according to the Michigan Career Pathways Alliance,  a coalition of educators, employers, and unions in partnership with the state education department and economic development agency.  The organization reports 109,000 students are enrolled in career tech programs in the state.

The funding for career training comes as Snyder has vowed to better prepare the state’s students for jobs in high tech fields following Amazon’s decision to cut Michigan cities from consideration for its new second headquarters. In passing on Detroit, the retail giant cited the region’s lack of highly educated workers who could do the high-tech work that Amazon needs.

Snyder said he’s planning to announce a “Marshall Plan for Talent” in coming weeks. The bump in the budget for career tech programs could be a part of that effort.

“We are incredibly excited that the executive budget recommendations presented today by Gov. Rick Snyder includes an investment in expanding Career and Technical Education for students in Michigan,” said Roger Curtis, director of the Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development. “This investment will greatly help schools offering and successfully operating tech programs and further demonstrates Michigan’s commitment to being the national leader in developing talent and providing multiple pathways for students to high-demand, high-wage jobs.”

More details about the governor’s proposed budget can be found here.

And then there were two

Michigan’s governor’s race will be Whitmer vs. Schuette. Here’s where they stand on education

Democrat Gretchen Whitmer will face Republican Bill Schuette on November 6 in the race to become Michigan's next governor.

Former state Senate minority leader Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Bill Schuette will face off in November in the race to become Michigan’s next governor.

The Associated Press called both races before 10 p.m. Tuesday as Whitmer coasted past two opponents in the Democratic primary and Schuette easily topped the four-candidate Republican field. 

The winner of the general election on November 6 will likely have an enormous impact on education across the state in coming years.

The next governor, who will replace term-limited Republican Rick Snyder, could preside over school closings. He or she could influence how schools are funded and measured, and could make crucial decisions about whether to expand preschool or address the rising costs of higher education.

Before the primary, Chalkbeat joined with a team of reporters from the Detroit Journalism Cooperative to interview six of the seven major-party candidates on a range of topics. We published their answers to key education questions, along with videos of the candidates’ education responses.

Schuette declined to participate in those interviews but later sent written answers to the questions. Unlike other candidates, his answers were not subjected to follow up questions.

Scroll down to read Whitmer and Schutte’s responses, edited for clarity and length. A full transcript of Whitmer’s answers to all of the questions in the hourlong interview is here.

Where they stand

Where candidates for governor in Michigan stand on major education issues

There’s a lot at stake for students, parents, and educators in this year’s Michigan governor’s race.

The next governor, who will replace term-limited Republican Rick Snyder, could determine everything from how schools are funded to how they’re measured and judged. Some candidates are considering shuttering low-performing schools across the state. Others have called for charter schools to get some additional oversight.

To see where major party candidates stand on crucial education issues, Chalkbeat joined with our partners in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative to ask candidates for their views on school funding, early childhood education, and paying for college.

All seven major-party candidates on the ballot in Michigan’s August 7 primary were invited to sit down with the journalism cooperative, which also includes Bridge Magazine, WDET Radio, Michigan Radio, Detroit Public Television, and New Michigan Media, to answer a range of questions.

Six candidates — three Democrats and three Republicans — accepted our invitation.

The one candidate who declined was Attorney General Bill Schuette, who is generally considered the Republican frontrunner. Schuette later submitted written answers that were added below, slightly edited for length. Because Schuette wasn’t interviewed in person, there was no opportunity, as there was with other candidates, to ask follow up questions or to insist that he answer the specific question he was asked.

The candidates were largely asked a standard set of questions. Read some of their answers — edited for length and clarity — below. Sort answers by candidate or see everyone’s answer to each question.

Or, to see the full responses to the education questions from candidates who were interviewed in person, watch videos of the interviews here.

(Full transcripts of the interviews, including answers to questions about roads, the environment and other issues are here).