LANSING - Michigan House Democrats today spoke out against the 2012-13 school funding omnibus budget because it fails to restore funds cut from public schools last year, pits school districts against school district and makes community colleges compete against each other for funding and picks favorites among four-year colleges and universities. Democrats said the budget sends Michigan children to the back of the class compared to students in other states and around the world.
“We need to do our part to make sure our kids are ready for the jobs of tomorrow or to enter college when they graduate from high school,” said State Representative Ellen Cogen Lipton (Huntington Woods). “Our schools can’t do that when they are saddled with steep cutbacks year after year. Last year, the Republicans who lead the Legislature took nearly $1 billion from our schools. This year, they want to restore just $200 million and call that an increase.”
The objections to the school budget include:
Minimal increases to per-pupil spending. After cutting per-pupil funding by $470 per pupil in the current year, next year’s budget would return - at most - $120 per pupil to K-12 education, leaving school districts at a $350-per-pupil deficit. And some districts won’t receive any funds to restore the $470 cut.
Mandated compliance with untested “best practices” to earn incentive funding. In order to earn more in per-pupil funding, school districts would have to comply with “best practices” such as creating an online dashboard that do little to improve education.
Community college funding at the expense of K-12 education. The budget calls for $197.6 million in community college funding to come from the School Aid Fund, which should be put toward public school districts.
Funding that plays favorites among universities. The funding increases for higher education that ranges from just 0.7 percent for Wayne State University to 8.2 percent for Saginaw Valley State University.
“When we pick winners and losers among our public schools and universities, the truth is that everyone loses, particularly our children,” said State Representative Sean McCann (Kalamazoo), minority vice-chairman for the community college appropriations subcommittee. “We cannot transfer funding away from our grade schools and high schools, put it in community colleges and hope to come out ahead. Both school districts and two-year colleges deserve full and adequate funding.”
At the higher education level, the state budget clearly picks teachers pets. While some universities, such as Saginaw Valley State University, get generous funding increases, others, such as Wayne State University, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, will receive less than 2 percent increases - a figure not enough to keep up with the rate of inflation. In some cases, the stingy funding decisions were made for political reasons, as in the case of Michigan State, which was targeted for punishment because it will require students to have health care coverage as a condition of enrollment.
“The budget doesn’t make up for deep cuts made to college funding in previous years. Rather than making college more accessible for Michigan families, it ensures that a college education will be put further out of reach for many of our kids,” said State Representative Joan Bauer (Lansing), the minority vice-chairwoman for the higher education appropriations subcommittee. “We should be creating a budget that makes a college education affordable. Instead, Republicans are using the budget as a vehicle to push their ideological agenda.”