Wednesday, April 17, 2013

New budget's disinvestment in K-12 goes beyond vouchers

"Vouchers for vendors" is in the budget, and that's bad.  Very bad.  Maybe not quite crossing the streams bad, but about as close as you can come to that in public school finance.  We discussed "vouchers for vendors" at length in our last post.  But there is plenty else to object to in the budget if you support public schools.

Probably the best breakdown of the budget comes from Oakland Schools Superintendent Vicki Markavitch.  Her 4 minute explanation is worth your time:

Here are the key points of Dr. Markavitch's explanation of how this budget falls short of even minimally supporting K-12 education:
  • $400 million are diverted from K-12 to finance universities.  (Okemos Parents for Schools support public universities and believe they should be robustly funded, but not at the expense of K-12 education).
  • $8 million are set aside for the EAA.  The 15 EAA schools get this money on top of their per pupil allowance, additional millions given to the EAA for startup, and additional millions from private donors.
  • Despite individual line items, total funding to K-12 is decreased.
  • "Vouchers for vendors" or "unbundling" is included. 
Dr. Markavitch says:
"Also, we can see the Governor put pieces of the Oxford Plan, that's the plan to rewrite how schools are funded in Michigan, into this budget. "Unbundling" school funding is a big piece.  And it appears in a small section of the budget that looks like it is simply giving parents and students the chance to take online course.  Well I have good news for the legislators and the Governor.  Parents and students in Michigan already have the option of taking online courses.  Thousands of students are taking thousands of online courses, because Michigan's school districts across the state are operating under a seat time waiver from the state superintendent that allows them to offer these course, pay for them, make sure they're of good quality, support the students through them.  So why do we need a section in the state budget for this kind of activity?  Well it's not for selecting online courses.  It's a backdoor to vouchers.  And these vouchers, are going to go to vendors."
Michigan Parents for Schools has broken down the respective budgets currently offered by Governor Snyder, the Senate, and the House.  None of them are good.  MPFS breaks down their differences.  MPFS also includes a handy email composer in case you're inclined to write to a lawmaker.

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