Equity Edition: Community Leaders Issue Statement Calling for More Funding Equity Following Signing of School Aid Budget
Community Leaders Issue Statement Calling for More Funding Equity Following Signing of School Aid Budget
Michigan lawmakers passed a $62.76 billion state budget last week that avoided drastic school funding cuts that had been forecast earlier this year due to the fiscal crisis resulting from the COVD-19 pandemic.
Over the past several months, Education Trust-Midwest has worked alongside partners to advance priorities for the coming fiscal year, including urging legislators to prioritize funding equity and underserved students, as well as public education across the board.
As details of the budget emerged, including a commitment by state leaders to maintain per-pupil funding as well as funding for underserved student groups at the levels funded last year, Education Trust-Midwest applauded the bipartisan commitment to prioritize public education.
However, much more work needs to be done to address the structural inequities in Michigan’s school funding system, particularly to avoid worsening the devastating opportunity and achievement gaps that were prevalent long before the school shutdowns this past spring, said Amber Arellano, executive director of the Education Trust-Midwest.
The following civil rights, civic and business leaders have joined together to issue the statement below upon Gov. Whitmer’s signing of the School Aid Budget for Fiscal Year 2020-21: Mike Jandernoa (42 North Partners), Hassan Jaber (ACCESS), Colleen Allen (Autism Alliance of Michigan), Alice G. Thompson (BFDI Educational Services, Inc.), Todd M. Jacobs (Community Foundation for Muskegon County), Jametta Lilly (Detroit Parent Network), Dave Meador (DTE Energy), Amber Arellano (The Education Trust-Midwest), Monique Marks (Franklin Wright Settlements Inc.), Diana Sieger (Grand Rapids Community Foundation), Holly Windram (Hope Network’s Michigan Education Corps), Deidre Bounds (Ignite Social Media), Nicole Wells Stallworth (MacDowell Preparatory Academy), Ken Whipple (Michigan Achieves! Leadership Council), Mike Larson (Michigan Association of United Ways), and Darienne D. Hudson, Ed.D. (United Way for Southeastern Michigan).
“Together, we applaud state lawmakers and the Governor for working across party lines to finalize an on-time budget that prioritizes public education. Maintaining student funding in such a challenging fiscal climate is significant during a global pandemic and time of great division in our country. We thank the Governor and leaders on both sides of the aisle for their strong collaboration – and their commitment to education.
“Students, teachers and families are being asked to continue learning during extraordinarily trying circumstances. This budget will help to address the unique learning needs of students by screening early elementary school students for characteristics of dyslexia; continuing to measure the impact of early literacy initiatives; and measuring student learning through aligned benchmark assessments that may be administered in the classroom or at home.
“More, however, must be done in the future to address the unique learning needs of students who have long been underserved and disproportionately impacted by the health, economic and educational crises resulting from COVID-19. This includes students of color, students with disabilities, English learners, and students from low-income families. Maintaining funding for the education of these student groups this year is important but is not enough, especially as the research suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to exacerbate opportunity and achievement gaps for many Michigan students.
“As advocates for an exceptional education for every Michigan student, we urge state leaders to build upon this budget to fund schools in a manner that reflects the unique needs of their student body. Ensuring greater transparency for school funding remains critical so that funds intended to benefit vulnerable students reach the classrooms they attend and are used effectively to improve their educational opportunities and access.”
School Aid Budget Includes Bright Spots; More Work Needs to be Done to Address Structural Inequities in School Funding.
A few bright spots that we are seeing as we begin our analysis of the full School Aid Budget include:
Overall Funding will see a modest, one-time boost of about $65 per student over the levels funded last school year. The foundation allowance will remain flat for this school year – districts will receive the same amount per pupil as they did in the 2019-20 school year (minimum foundation allowance is $8,111/pupil).
At-Risk Funding, which supports the additional learning needs of students from low-income families, foster-involved youth, students experiencing homelessness and others will be maintained at $510 million. Although we are pleased that this was not cut in this budget, our research continues to show that Michigan is grossly underfunding at-risk students, English learners and students with disabilities.
Students with Disabilities funding will remain intact. Requirements around dyslexia screening from last year remain in the budget and a new $500,000 grant program will be established for supporting children with dyslexia. Ed Trust-Midwest has advocated for these investments to address the needs of children and boost literacy levels for students with dyslexia challenges.
English Learners will receive the same levels of support as last year. A new $500,000 program administered by the Chaldean Community Foundation will seek to support and expand early literacy, high school graduation and postsecondary education for new Americans.
Early Literacy continues to be a priority for the state. Funds previously designated for only supporting K-3 literacy efforts may now also be used for developing the literacy skills of pre-kindergarten students.
Educator Retention will be bolstered in high-poverty districts through a program to provide their newest teachers with a stipend of at least $1500 this school year upon completion of the academic year. To participate, districts must apply for the program and commit to matching the state’s $1000 stipend with an additional $500 of district funding. If funding permits in future years, qualifying teachers that remain employed by the same district may be eligible for the stipend for up to three years.
Digital Literacy and COVID-Related Transparency get a boost through a digital literacy program for K-8 students ($500,000), increased reporting on COVID-19 learning plans and instructional delivery methods, publicly posting information about supports for educators, the use of benchmark assessments to better understand student learning and gaps, research into the effectiveness of virtual learning ($150,000) and over-the-air broadcast of standards-aligned instructional content 24/7 ($2 million).
Postsecondary Access will be improved through an online informational resource for students and families about financial aid programs, making the SAT available to students who were unable to take it last spring, and approximately $30 million for Michigan Reconnect, which helps finance community college tuition for adults. Governor Whitmer also has directed some federal aid to “Futures for Frontliners,” a program to support frontline workers to complete their GED or attend community college.
Despite the important progress made in the Fiscal Year 2020-21 budget, Michigan will still invest far too little in students living in poverty, students of color, students with disabilities and English learners. Not enough will be done to ensure transparency and accountability of spending, and in too many ways, Michigan will preserve an educational system failing to meet the needs of far too many young people. This budget should be a beginning to build from to ensure that every Michigan child has an exceptional education.
Today, Governor Whitmer (D) signed Senate Bill 927 (Stamas – R), the School Aid Budget for fiscal year 2020-2021, which begins on Thursday, October 1.
Today, September 30, the Senate Appropriations Committee met at 2:00 p.m. in the Senate Hearing Room at Boji Tower. The agenda included:
- Senate Bill 1052 (Bumstead – R), which would modify the Michigan promise zone authority act.
- Back to school puts financial strain on Michigan’s most vulnerable families, Nushrat Rahman, Detroit Free Press
- Detroit teachers see pay increases and more worker protections as part of tentative deal, Eleanore Catolico, Chalkbeat Detroit
- Districts Feel the Pain From Standoff Over COVID-19 Aid, Daarel Burnette II, EdWeek