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State board recommends improvements in Mich. schools

The Detroit News

Lansing – — Facing declining enrollment and classroom funding, Michigan needs to fix Proposal A and spend “smarter” to improve student outcomes, according to a report endorsed by the State Board of Education.

In a 6-2 vote Tuesday, the board approved recommendations that call for making education funding a budget priority; investing in teachers and early childhood education; requiring a “certificate of need process” to open new charter schools and developing a way for school districts to “effectively raise additional local revenues.”

According to the nine-page document, Michigan ranks 22nd in the nation for per-pupil funding, at $12,644, but in the bottom half of states for math and English scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

The report says the state’s enrollment has fallen 11 percent since 2003, from 1.7 million to 1.5 million, and inflation-adjusted spending on education has dropped 16 percent since 2004. While state spending has risen $1 billion from four years ago, most of the new money is going toward employee retirement costs, the document says.

According to the report, the state has made needed some reforms but hasn’t backed them up with “the investment and capacity-building necessary to implement them effectively.”

“We aren’t getting our dollars into the classroom, and not spending smart and strategically like high-performing states — to improve learning and educational outcomes,” said board President John C. Austin. “In a time of overall declining student enrollment, we have an open-ended new school choice, and charter policy, that is making things worse, not better for most schools and students.”

“We’re not necessarily asking for more money,” said board Vice President Casandra E. Ulbrich, “we’re asking for policies that allow us to spend the money schools currently receive, wisely.”

Republican members Eileen Weiser and Richard Zeile voted against the recommendations.

Weiser said she and Zeile wanted the report to address other issues, such as linking funding to accountability and defining “quality” first before discussing funding it.

The report can be read here.