Friday, October 21, 2016

Michigan and 33 Other States Still Funding K-12 at Pre-Recession Levels

Nearly a decade after the recession, school funding in many states hasn't recovered
Nearly 10 years after the recession, school funding is still way down in some states. That's according to a new report released Thursday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Michigan's State Board of Education and Superintendent have called for the state to be in the "Top 10 in 10," but since one's wallet usually reflects your priorities it's clear that our state legislature and governor have different goals in mind for public education.

Funding for public K-12 education in Michigan is down 11.2% in comparison to 2008 when adjusted for inflation (i.e., the cost of running a school). Of course we know that our state legislature sorely underfunds public schools and has done so rather intentionally over the past nine years. Class sizes are up, schools have been closed, classrooms go without needed textbooks, technology and replacements for outdated equipment (especially in critical STEM courses). Teachers go without professional training and coaching to keep up with the maddening changes in state-mandated curriculum and testing.

Michigan commissioned a study on our public school funding and the results released three months late this past June were telling, if not horrific, regarding how underfunded our schools are when it comes to providing every child an adequate and equitable education. Although the study came up short because it failed to include recommendations for ensuring special education students are properly funded, and did not even address other structures that impact student learning, such as size of the district/school, rural versus suburban and city schools, or varying costs in hiring highly qualified teachers in different parts of the state, it did come out and recommend an immediate increase in the minimum foundation allowance to $8,667 just to get to the low threshold of "adequacy." For most Michigan schools, that's an increase of $1,100 per student.

But that's just the beginning if Michigan is serious about ensuring EVERY child has an equitable opportunity to complete the 13-year public education race despite the many setbacks that force a substantial number of students to begin that race from way behind the starting line. Students in poverty, many of which are attending schools in high-poverty neighborhoods, or those children with other state-defined, at-risk attributes REQUIRE a minimum of 30% more in per-pupil funding from the state just to run a fair race and have a chance to compete with their more affluent peers. Other students who may come from non-English-speaking homes and have limited-English reading, writing and/or speaking skills require at least 40% additional funding according to the study.  Read Report: At-risk students need more Michigan funding.

As you can see from the chart below, the impact of declining per-pupil foundation funding by the state, which took over responsibility all school operating funding more than twenty years ago, has been devastating for our district while at the same time we've wrestled with an increasingly low-income (95% FRL and 38% Federal Poverty) and English learner (43%) student population. The value of $1 in state aid provided in 1995 is now capable of only purchasing 63 cents worth of services, supplies, materials, equipment, utilities, etc. owing to the rate of inflation.

Consequently, just to keep up with inflation, our district would require a foundation allowance of $8,500 per pupil, which is just shy ($167) of the "adequacy" recommendation by the school finance study released in June. But as you can see from the chart below, we're not even close to "adequate" and certainly "equity" as proposed by the study's recommendations is not even addressed by our state. This has resulted in larger class sizes despite a high at-risk population, less resources and availability of higher level courses, less time away from the classroom for teachers to engage in professional learning and collaborative work, textbooks and other support materials that are eight or more years old, difficulties maintaining basic instructional and support facilities, less opportunities for enrichment as well as addressing learning gaps across our curriculum, and less competitive salaries to ensure we attract and maintain a high quality faculty and administration.

We hear a lot of high and mighty talk about how we in Michigan are going to reform our public education system once and for all, becoming that top ten state within ten years. But for the most part it is bark without bite because adequacy and equity in school finance is not at the top of the priority list. The latest effort is Governor Rick Snyder's Michigan 21st Century Education Commission which no doubt will "consider" school funding in the mix, but like most reports over the Governor's tenure to-date, will bury those recommendations under a mountain of higher curriculum expectations, more intrusive (and abusive) narrow testing and faulty use of that data, more time in classroom seats (proven only to improve test prep and not actual learning), higher quality teacher prep programs (which will be a waste of time unless we are able to attract more teachers into the profession), etc. In other words, more "sticks" than "carrots" despite the growing evidence that Michigan intentionally starves our public education system.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Another Day, Another Misguided Discussion in Lansing About High-Stakes Testing

State Superintendent outlines proposed changes to how Michigan students are tested |

Continuously changing narrow, high-stakes testing of content that's mainly forgotten three months later makes absolutely no sense, and is simply pandering to those who advocate for education reforms that are harmful to student learning and focused on the industrial model of schooling. 

What we need are localized assessments focused on 21st century learning skills (6Cs, etc) that are designed around showing what one has learned (not knowing short-term memorized content) by doing, exhibiting, making, and creating. 

Tell your state senator and representative that enough is enough. Lansing needs to back off. They've done more than enough damage already.

Learn more about how and why schools should redesign learning and assessment through the documentary film, Most Likely to Succeed. If you haven't yet, bring a viewing to your district and/or community. It provides a great discussion starter for how to break the bonds from our industrial-age school model and provide learning spaces and activities that benefit our 21st century students.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Pretty nice gig!

With the election looming large, help me understand this.
Our state legislators in Michigan are paid $71,685 plus $10,800 in expenses and a mileage reimbursement of .54/mile. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, their compensation is considered the fourth highest in the U.S.
The House has 85 session days scheduled in this current calendar year, yet Michigan's House and Senate are considered one of only eleven FULL-TIME state legislative bodies in the U.S.
Ignoring the expense account and mileage reimbursement, but taking into account their 85 day session year, they are actually paid a daily rate equivalent to a teacher who might earn $156,020 per year. I don't know any teachers who earn that much, but given what they are paid I do question the attitude of our legislature when it comes to the continuing reductions in school funding, after factoring in inflation.
And are they really a FULL-TIME legislature? I don't know too many full-time employees who work just 85 days per year. Do you?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Learning at the convergence of 3 different centuries

Our K-12 schools will span three difference centuries this year as we provide a final year of 21st century education for the last graduating class born in the 20th century, and we welcome the kindergarten class where nearly a majority will likely live into the 22nd century.

The real question is, what, how, when and where will they learn from a staff in which all of us were born and mainly raised in the second half of the 1900s?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Michigan's inequitable, inadequate public school funding systems

Here are links to recent and supporting references regarding the recently-released Michigan Education Finance Study (a.k.a., "adequacy study").

Study: Michigan school funding getting ‘more unequal’


Report: At-risk students need more Michigan funding

"Adequacy" study finds Michigan education funding inadequate, inequitable

$8,667 per student? 5 findings from Michigan education funding study

Michigan Education Finance Study


Supt. Whiston Calls for Action on State Education Funding Study


Long-Awaited Education Funding Study Released

Unintended Consequence of Centralized Public School Funding in Michigan Education

Rep. Zemke: Education Study Reveals Significant Funding Gaps

America’s Most Financially Disadvantaged School Systems

Study a step to getting Michigan school funding right

Upjohn Institute says education funding in Michigan is broken