Mich. Senate committee approves K-12 education funding

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — A state Senate committee on Wednesday approved a K-12 education funding budget that boosts basic funding for schools districts by $50 to $100 per student and keeps in place most of Gov. Rick Snyder’s new initiatives.

The Republican-controlled Senate panel’s bill adopts Snyder’s proposed $100 million boost in funding for schools with large populations of children at risk of falling behind academically.

The House’s School Aid appropriations subcommittee rejected the at-risk funds, choosing to pour most of the new money into a base funding increase for school districts ranging from $137 to $274 per student.

Under the Senate committee’s budget plan, Michigan’s lowest-funded schools would get up to $100 more per pupil boost in funding, while wealthier school districts would get $50 more for every student. In February, Snyder proposed a base increase of $75 per student.

“We need to get all of the schools on the same level,” said state Sen. Goeff Hansen, the committee chairman and an Oceana County Republican.

The subcommittee’s budget blueprint, which needs approval of the full Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate, is markedly different than a budget plan the House committee adopted Tuesday.

The Senate plan sets the minimum state funding level at $7,351 per student, while the House plan establishes a $7,525 minimum grant for each child.

Hansen also proposed doubling Snyder’s $10 million request for an initiative to ensure students are reading by the third grade. The committee approved $20 million, while the House committee rejected the funding request entirely.

But the senator wants to see improved test scores within three years of the new initiative’s launch.

“In three years, this is going to be successful or it’s going to go away,” Hansen said.

The Senate Appropriations School Aid subcommittee adopted Snyder’s recommended spending levels for grants for school technology improvements and so-called “best practices” for school district management. The House bill eliminates those line-item programs and directs the money toward the base funding for all schools.

Hansen largely rejected Snyder’s request for a $75 million special fund for distressed school districts, such as Detroit Public Schools.

“They haven’t told me exactly what the dollars are for,” Hansen told reporters after the committee meeting.

The Senate committee’s adopted budget kept $8.9 million, an increase from this year’s $4 million funding level, which the House panel approved.

The budget bill Hansen crafted includes a $4 million boost in a $1 million grant program for “isolated” school districts with higher-than-normal student busing costs.

“I have a couple of districts spending 17 percent of their budgets on transportation,” Hansen told committee members.

Hansen’s budget bill won rare praise from a Democrat on the committee for increases in funding for adult education and skilled trades training.

“I’m pleasantly surprised,” said Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood, D-Taylor. “Within the confines that we have here, this is a good budget.”

Still, Hopgood chose not to vote for or against the budget, citing concerns about the Republican-controlled Legislature’s recent use of School Aid funds to balance the deficit-ridden general fund.


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