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20 Michigan School Districts Raising Funds For Court Challenge

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Lansing, Mich.--More than 20 Michigan school districts are chipping in to finance a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state's school aid formula.

The districts have raised $50,000 for the effort and the suit is expected to be filed in May, said Gerald Kratz, superintendent of the Jackson County intermediate school district.

The districts claim that financing for education is not equal, as guaranteed by the state constitution. They hope the courts will force Michigan's legislature to come up with a more equitable system.

Under the current funding system, it is possible for a school district with high property values to have almost twice as much funding per pupil as a less wealthy district, even if they both levy the same tax rate.

The state-aid formula, ironically, involved complex calculations designed to even out differences between districts with substantial tax bases and those with little. However, the effectiveness of the current formula has been diluted by rapidly rising property values and inadequate appropriations from the legislature, said Richard Snyder, whose east Jackson district is one of those involved in the planned suit.

State Aid Formula

About one-third of Michigan's school districts now receive no basic state aid because of their large property tax base, Mr. Snyder said. The state-aid formula has not kept the other two-thirds of the districts even with those wealthy ones, he said.

"We feel the Michigan constitution guarantees equality of educational opportunity for all the citizens of the state. The way the funding formula works, we have nothing approaching equal opportunity, even with equal tax effort on the part of local citizens, Mr. Snyder says. "Michigan youngsters are not getting a square deal, and the situation is getting worse very rapidly."

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