Thursday, May 30, 2013

K-12 Budget Fails to Invest, Includes "Vouchers for Vendors"

The House and Senate have passed a K-12 budget which amounts to a net decrease in operating revenue for public schools and includes the harmful "Vouchers for Vendors" provision.

Although the K-12 budget is widely reported to contain a small increase in funding for public schools, much of that increase is directed toward funding MPSERS, a pension plan, and is unavailable for schools operating expenses.  Michigan Parents for Schools calculates this budget is a net 0.9 percent decrease for public schools:
"... overall spending on P-12 is now rising 3.1% compared to revised figures for the current year. However, much of that is going into funding the MPSERS rate cap to local districts (costs that would otherwise have been passed on to districts and wiped out an equivalent amount of per pupil funding increases. The other major increase is Snyder's $65 million bump to Great Start - a worthy program but doesn't help K-12. Most districts were going to see a cut next year until the revenue conference projected more revenue in the current year than expected. They are using about $140 million of this in K-12, and most of that is going to some per-pupil funding increases and restoring various targeted programs which had been cut in earlier drafts. Now, there will be a $30 to $60 per pupil bump via the 2x formula - though at the cost of a reduction in the additional MPSERS "help" offered to districts, making this a net redistribution from local districts to charters (who would almost never qualify for the MPSERS assistance). Moreover, many districts would lose more from the MPSERS offset reductions than they gain in the foundation allowance. There is separate money to make sure that every district ends up with a net increase of $5 per pupil. 
Put another way, the money actually committed to per-pupil funding will increase 0.9% next year compared to last. Nearly all the rest goes to MPSERS prefunding (the cap) and to Great Start expansion, plus some pet projects. $8 million for "student centered learning" is still in there, essentially a gift for the EAA. A million for robotics. More money in performance funding. And so on."  Michigan Parents for Schools Executive Director Steven Norton, May 26, 2013.
The budget also includes the harmful "Vouchers for Vendors" provision which we have written about at length.  We have discussed how this measure will be a syphon on the limited funds our schools can use for operating expenses, "Vouchers for Vendors," what it is, and why you should speak out against it, Okemos Parents for Schools, April 14, 2013, as well as how there are major concerns for the quality of this education, Education Budgets Moving - Vouchers and Disinvestment, Okemos Parents for Schools, April 24, 2013.

This budget also diverted $400 million dollars from the School Aid Fund to community colleges and universities.  Like so many other pursuits of government, these are worthy pursuits, but there is no reason to fund them at the expense of K-12 education.

Senator Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) spoke out against the budget at length:

Senator Whitmer said, in part:
"This is just the latest instance of Republicans pushing to turn our students over to unproven technologies and for-profit entities who have no vested interests in the student success. While we're only being given a glimpse of this in this particular budget bill, the news headlines lately have painted a much broader picture. Simply put, Governor Snyder and legislative Republicans are trying to turn a public education into a private enterprise. At every turn Republicans are attacking out brick and mortar schools and our flesh-and-blood educators. Republicans are more comfortable in trusting our kids to a computer than a teacher, and Republicans want to put schools in the hands of a corporate CEO instead of a superintendent."
Senator Morris Hood III (D-Detroit), Senator Hoon-Yung Hopgood (D-Taylor), and Senator Bert Johnson (D-Highland Park) also spoke out against the budget.  The budget passed largely along party lines, 25-12, in the Senate with all Democrats opposing the bill.  Senator Rick Jones, (R-Eaton) was the lone Republican to vote against the bill.  Sen. Jones had previously pledged to oppose "Vouchers for Vendors" to Okemos Parents for Schools. Response from Action on "Vouchers for Vendors." Okemos Parents for Schools, May 14, 2013.

In the House, the bill passed largely along party lines as well, 65-43.  Eight Democrats voted for the budget,Reps. Theresa Abed (D-Grand Ledge), Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) Tom Cochran (D-Mason), Scott Dianda (D-Calumet), Gretchen Driskell (D-Saline) John Kivela (D-Marquette) Collene Lamonte (D-Montague) and Henry Yanez (D-Sterling Heights), and two Republicans voted against it, Reps. Martin Howrylak (R-Troy) and Bob Genetski (R-Saugatuck).

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