Michigan Lawmakers Make Spate of Education Funding Changes


The Michigan Senate has passed a package of bills that would give the state an early warning when state public schools face a financial emergency – but the entire series of bills will not be sent to Gov. Rick Snyder’s quite yet.

Kyle Feldscher. reporting for MLive Media Group, writes that House Bill 4325-4330 passed the Senate without much debate, but those opposed say the bill takes local control away by giving more control to the state treasurer. Supporters say it will protect districts from becoming more bogged down in financial turmoil and from requiring state cash infusions in order to finish out the school year.

The addition of a technical amendment when the bill was sent back to the House for a concurrence vote after the Senate adjourned meant the five bills cannot be sent to the governor until another Senate vote in the next session which begins June 30.

The bills will require that school districts, intermediate school districts, and charter schools send their projected budgets to the state by July 7. If a district has a fund balance of over 8% of their general fund revenues for more than two years, the district is exempt from this.

The bills will combine more reporting, an expansion of deficit elimination plan programs, the establishment of enhanced deficit elimination plans, and change the manner in which the Michigan Department of Education and Treasury Department can withhold state aid payments. They will also increase the control of the State Treasurer in school oversight, along with the ability to recommend an emergency financial manager who would take over a failing school district.

Meanwhile, Gov. Snyder signed a $54.5 billion state budget last week which included only a modest spending increase for education. The budget will include new actions meant to improve early literacy and training for skilled trade jobs. David Eggert of the Associated Press says the state will spend almost $1.7 billion, or 3%, more in the next fiscal year than will be spent this year.

The money is coming from an unexpected increase in enrollment in the state’s federally-funded Medicaid expansion program. The budget will necessitate the closing of a juvenile justice facility and will cut human services positions. There is a $70 to $140 increase in traditional per-student funding for K-12 schools, nearly 0.9% more for the highest-funded districts and about 2% increase for the lowest-funded school districts.

Mid-Michigan’s classrooms will be receiving more money with the biggest impact on its under-performing schools. James Felton reports for WNEM-TV that Matt Cairy, Superintendent of Freeland Schools, advised that the increase does not come close to covering his schools’ needs for the coming year. He was thankful for the timing of the release of the budget numbers, however, which will occur in June even though the budget does not go into effect until October 1.

Krystal Wagner of the Grand Haven Tribune reported on how changes may impact local schools in her area of the state. Fruitport Community Schools’ Superintendent Bob Szymoniak is happy with the increase, but says the problem in his school and county is a decrease in student population. Still, he feels the population may stabilize in response to the improving economy.

Walden Green Montessori School’s Principal Mark Neidlinger says:

“Anytime the state can support our students, I’m just thrilled by that. I think it reflects the economy bouncing back, and hopefully it reflects a commitment to children and education. It thrills me to no end. It allows us to give our students the resources they do deserve.”

Grand Haven Area Public Schools Superintendent Keith Konarska added:

“Although we are very pleased to see an increase in our per-pupil funding, we do have concerns about the restrictions on parts of the funding that limit our flexibility. It should also be noted that even with the increase, our per-pupil funding for K-12 programs are just above what we received in 2005-06.”