Education Funding

Mich. Lawmakers Reach Deal on K-12 School Budget

By Joetta L. Sack — October 01, 2004 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A last-minute deal has assured Michigan school districts that they will receive a slight increase in funding in the new fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, despite the state’s $1.2 billion budget shortfall.

While most Michigan districts were slated to receive a nominal increase in their per-pupil allotment in fiscal 2005, some of the state’s higher-spending districts were bracing for another year of flat funding as part of a balanced- budget plan.

Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, a Democrat, had proposed no increase to the basic state grants for the 22 districts that receive the highest per- pupil allotments from the state. Some Republicans reluctantly supported the plan.

Then, early last week, after a highly visible protest by those districts and other educators, a new deal was struck that would let the state use proceeds from pending sales of surplus state land to pay the $6.6 million tab—$74 per student—for giving the higher-spending districts the same raise that the rest of the districts would receive.

Late last week, the House and the Senate passed the $37 billion compromise budget plan that would put about $12.5 billion into the K-12 education budget. Gov. Granholm was expected to sign it as soon as her legislative staff reviewed it.

“It’s a one-time fix, and so much of the budget is one-time fixes,” said Sen. Ron Jelineck, the Republican who heads the Senate committee that oversees education appropriations. “However, it helps fulfill the intention of what we said we would do for education.”

“I think our final compromise shows that we’re very excited that every school district in the state will see an increase,” said Greg Bird, a spokesman for the state’s management and budget agency. “Our main concern before was that those other school districts not be harmed, and we were able to find money through compromise.”

Actually a Cut?

But education groups were not impressed.

The Michigan Association of School Boards warned that the plan, which Gov. Granholm and legislators were advertising as providing slight per-pupil increases, really amounted to a cut, when factoring in inflation and midyear cuts from the previous two years.

“Ultimately, both [Democrats and Republicans] were willing to do the cuts. Now in the end, both are saying that they’ve found the solution,” said Don Wotruba, the legislative analyst for the boards’ group. “Ultimately, we still have a revenue problem in Michigan.”

Legislators countered that the state was not recovering well enough from its economic downturn, and that they were trying to spare education from as many cuts as possible.

“We want to do as much as we can for education,” said Keith Ledbetter, the press secretary for Speaker of the House Rick Johnson, a Republican. “It’s the only area of state government that hasn’t received a cut, and they’ve done pretty well considering how other entities have had to fare.”

Fighting Back

The current dispute is part of long-running debate over a state law that was designed to ease inequities in spending between Michigan school districts.

Proposal A, the state’s 1993 ballot measure that stringently capped property taxes and turned over the responsibility for most education funding to the state, was designed to ease the funding gaps between districts and increase the amount spent by the lowest-income districts.

But it also contained a hold-harmless provision that allows wealthier districts to continue spending considerably more on their students than their low-income counterparts do.

In the past 11 years, however, the plan has boosted the minimum funding at a higher rate for the lowest-spending districts than it has for the districts that were at higher levels.

Under the budget plan, this year’s minimum per-pupil grant is to be $6,700. Twenty-two districts, known as “20-J” districts, were slated to receive at least $9,000 per student.

Six of the 20-J districts were in Oakland County, the state’s wealthiest area, which lies north of Detroit near Flint.

County Executive L. Brooks Patterson launched a campaign to restore the minimum increases in per-pupil spending for those districts—calling together all the superintendents in Oakland County, plus some from other districts, for a press conference and lobbying campaign to raise the pressure on state lawmakers.

His strategy worked.

Mr. Patterson said in an interview last week that the 20-J districts had already approved school budgets and started their school years counting on a minimal increase from the state. It would be difficult, he added, to make cuts at this point.

Further, he said, the 20-J districts are constantly being targeted for cuts even though they also need the money.

“Oftentimes, when there is a budget shortfall, they look to us, and say we can afford to give a little,” Mr. Patterson said. “Maybe the first time, maybe the second time, but along about the 20th time you begin to see a pattern.”

“We have to fight back; we cannot be the bank for the state,” he added.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the September 15, 2004 edition of Education Week as Mich. Lawmakers Reach Deal On K-12 School Budget

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
Strategies for Incorporating SEL into Curriculum
Empower students to thrive. Learn how to integrate powerful social-emotional learning (SEL) strategies into the classroom.
Content provided by Be GLAD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Leadership in Education: Building Collaborative Teams and Driving Innovation
Learn strategies to build strong teams, foster innovation, & drive student success.
Content provided by Follett Learning
School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Principals, Lead Stronger in the New School Year
Join this free virtual event for a deep dive on the skills and motivation you need to put your best foot forward in the new year.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding What New School Spending Data Show About a Coming Fiscal Cliff
New data show just what COVID-relief funds did to overall school spending—and the size of the hole they might leave in school budgets.
4 min read
Photo illustration of school building and piggy bank.
F. Sheehan for Education Week + iStock / Getty Images Plus
Education Funding When There's More Money for Schools, Is There an 'Objective' Way to Hand It Out?
A fight over the school funding formula in Mississippi is kicking up old debates over how to best target aid.
7 min read
Illustration of many roads and road signs going in different directions with falling money all around.
iStock/Getty
Education Funding Explainer How Can Districts Get More Time to Spend ESSER Dollars? An Explainer
Districts can get up to 14 additional months to spend ESSER dollars on contracts—if their state and the federal government both approve.
4 min read
Illustration of woman turning back hands on clock.
Education Week + iStock / Getty Images Plus Week
Education Funding Education Dept. Sees Small Cut in Funding Package That Averted Government Shutdown
The Education Department will see a reduction even as the funding package provides for small increases to key K-12 programs.
3 min read
President Joe Biden delivers a speech about healthcare at an event in Raleigh, N.C., on March 26, 2024.
President Joe Biden delivers a speech about health care at an event in Raleigh, N.C., on March 26. Biden signed a funding package into law over the weekend that keeps the federal government open through September but includes a slight decrease in the Education Department's budget.
Matt Kelley/AP