State budget goes to conference

Without agreement on school spending for the fiscal year that runs from October 2019 through September 2020, the state House of Representatives and Senate have named conference committee members.

Representatives Miller (R), Hornberger (R) and Pagan (D), and Senators Schmidt (R), Stamas (R) and Bayer (D) will meet to address differences in the school aid budgets passed this year by the House and Senate, along with priorities proposed by Governor Whitmer.

An agreement on funding must be reached before the end of September to avoid a state government shutdown. Earlier this year, The Education Trust-Midwest released an analysis of the executive budget recommendation. In that proposal, Governor Whitmer proposed changes that would stabilize school funding and prioritize equitable spending. Doing so would ensure that student spending reflects the learning needs of the student.

Making financial aid accessible to more students

Accessing financial aid for trade school, community college and 4-year colleges and universities would be made easier through a recently-proposed bill, House Bill 4614 (Camilleri – D).

The proposal would ensure that high school students submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Under the bill, submitting the financial aid application or receiving a waiver from doing so, would become a part of high school graduation expectations.

“FAFSA is the single most important key to unlocking financial aid for all students, but it’s especially crucial for low-income students,” said Rep. Darrin Camilleri (D), the Democrat vice-chair of the House Education Committee and sponsor of the legislation. “FAFSA opened up opportunities for me, and with this bill, I hope that more students will be able to achieve their dreams regardless of the costs of higher education or skilled trades training.”

High school seniors who complete a FAFSA are more likely to enroll in postsecondary education directly after graduation. This is especially true for low-income 12th graders, who are 127 percent more likely to enroll in postsecondary education directly after high school, compared to peers who do not submit the form.

Estimates show that in the 2017-18 FAFSA application cycle, about 17,500 students in Michigan missed out on more than $65 million in Pell grant aid for attending postsecondary, that they were eligible for. This number does not account for the millions more in private and institutional aid that require a completed FAFSA.

And Michigan’s 2018 FAFSA completion rate of 56.6 percent of graduating students lags far behind national leaders. The two states with FAFSA completion requirements, Louisiana and Tennessee, boast 2018 completion rates of 77.1 percent and 76.6 percent, respectively. At the same time, Michigan students are leaving millions of dollars in financial aid on the table for trade school, community college and 4-year colleges and universities.

By supporting students to complete a FAFSA, more Michigan students can have access to the funding that they need, in order to pursue the postsecondary pathway of their choice.

Updated social studies standards approved

Last month, the Michigan State Board of Education approved new social studies standards – the end of year expectations for what students should know and be able to do.

This came after years of debate and changes. In late 2018, the Education Trust-Midwest weighed in on proposed standards to oppose changes that would have minimized the struggle of groups, including African Americans, to earn equal rights and protections, minimized the push back of others against civil rights, and largely brushed past government-sanctioned segregation and discrimination. Fortunately, most of these changes were later reversed, after public outcry.

“American history deserves transparency,” noted Education Trust-Midwest staff Brian Gutman and Lauren Hubbard in a fall 2018 guest column on the proposed revisions. “This must include our greatest achievements, darkest hours, and the many struggles, setbacks and victories in-between.”

View a comparison of the 2018 proposed and 2019 approved social studies standards here.

Tweet of the Week

@edtrustmidwest: THANK YOU to @UBS #Detroit for hosting @EdTrust Senior Leadership team yesterday in your beautiful new offices. Exceptional conversation with @Dr_Vitti @DetroitK12 and Ari Weinzweig, @zingermans. @EdTrustWest @EdTrustNY