The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2003 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
Michigan’s new $12.5 billion education budget aims to restore the state-aid allotments that were cut in each of the last two years.
Under the spending plan for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, the minimum aid to districts is $6,700 for each student, up by $74 from the amount most districts received last year. Overall, the budget saw a 1 percent increase over fiscal 2004.
The midyear cuts to school aid came in the face of revenue shortfalls, which could plague the state again this year. Many districts have already used their rainy-day funds or cut programs, and say they can’t absorb further losses in state aid without laying off staff members.
The budget was sealed in a last-minute deal that preserved the $74-per-pupil increase for the state’s 22 highest-spending districts. Because of historical spending patterns, those districts receive per-pupil allotments that top $9,000. Gov. Jennifer M. Gran holm had originally proposed that those districts remain at fiscal 2004 spending levels, though the districts successfully lobbied to defeat that provision. (Sept. 15, 2004.)
While the Democratic governor originally sought $10 million for a program to bolster preschoolers’ reading readiness and parent involvement, the final plan contains the same $3.3 million for the program as last year.
In other business, the legislature approved a package of bills aimed at making regional school districts more accountable by allowing voters to recall the members of those school boards, requiring competitive bids for building projects, and eliminating secret elections of board members. The bills respond ed, in part, to a financial scandal in the Oakland Intermediate School District near Detroit.
The legislature also voted to allow Detroit residents to decide Nov. 2 whether their school district should return to an elected board with full powers, or the mayor should have the final say over the chief executive.