Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Using the school aid fund surplus to improve equity in Michigan

The House Fiscal Agency briefing yesterday projects a surplus in the school aid fund for 2012-13 to be $222 million. Already, plenty of ideas have emerged on what to do with this funding but no one is talking about using it to close the equity gap between districts in affluent communities and those serving the poor.

It takes considerably more funding and resources to provide the supports and programming that ensure students from poor communities and those struggling with the English language to meet the same college and career readiness goals expected of ALL children in Michigan.

This is an opportunity for our state legislators and Governor Snyder to show courage and do the one thing that will help improve academic achievement in low-achieving, urban poor districts. Set some reasonable expectations for use of the funds, require the receiving districts to write a plan on how the addition to their foundation grant will be used to overcome the obstacles to higher student achievement, and measure the results.

That's all fine and should be expected, but to do nothing with this surplus to significantly impact the funding inequity would be a shame. It would also send a solid message to poor communities, with large populations of minorities and immigrant students, that you are not worthy of the support necessary to throw off the shackles of poverty and succeed just as your affluent neighbors do.

Do the right thing, Lansing.