Michigan Legislature Approves 4% Increase in Education Spending

Divided on most everything else, the Michigan state legislature agreed on an increase to the state's education spending this week, sending a bill to the governor's office proposing a 4% increase, according to a story from The Associated Press.

The plan calls for an increase of $15.8 billion and will has several key areas to address:

  • The per-pupil expenditures for all K-12 districts increase by at least $50 in fiscal year 2015.
  • The lowest-funded K-12 districts get at least $175 more per student.
  • Aid to the 15 universities will rise by 5.9%.
  • If universities raise their tuition by more than 3.2%, they will not get the funding increase.

The bill passed by a 60-50 vote in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, then was approved by the Senate with a 21-17 margin.

One politician, Rep. Brandon one member of the party, Rep. Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids) refused to vote, according to the AP story.

He said he preferred the House-passed version of the budget and found it "incredibly difficult" to understand why Detroit Public Schools will get a $50 increase in the traditional foundation grant while a "cyber school in my district is going to get $175 more."

Further highlights of the bill include $65 million to get more four-year-olds deemed ‘at risk' into preschool; $15 million to a reserve fund for a new teacher and administration evaluation system that could get approved in different legislation; an increase of five days of school for the 2014-2015 academic year; and close to $1 million in salary to be spread among six new, full-time Department of Education employees who will be tasked with overseeing progress at those lower-achieving districts.

Getting the bill passed was a narrow thing, as the legislature retired for its summer break at the close of session on Thursday.

Michigan is one of a minority group of states that did not adopt the Common Core standards when they were first introduced, opting to stay with its 45-year-old Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP).

The bill directs the state to develop a new MEAP to be given next spring and to seek a waiver or amendment to its existing waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law. The agency is required to request bids for a new standardized test for 2015-16. Next year's MEAP will have to align with the Common Core standards that are designed to develop more critical thinking skills than traditional school work.
A US Census report using data from 2010 had Michigan ranked ninth in the US in total school revenue (federal, local and state). Michigan was spending $10,644 per pupil at that point, just $29 above the national average.
The same report listed Michigan fourth graders as ranked 35th in the country in math proficiency, and its eighth graders were ranked 31st in English proficiency.
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