Monday, November 25, 2013

Is Proposal A aiding in the destruction of Michigan's public school system? Was that the real purpose?

At one point or another lately, you've probably come across statements like the following:

“Proposal A fails to ensure either fiscal stability or financial adequacy for Michigan schools.”

“Most central city and low-income suburban districts are worse off under Proposal A, because slow growth in the per-pupil foundation allowance has been accompanied by falling enrollments.”

“The real value of every district’s foundation allowance has declined in each of the last two years.”

“Education revenues in Michigan are no longer keeping pace with the rising operating costs that schools face, and school districts across the state are cutting programs and services in response.”

“Schools facing higher costs must overcome an immediate disadvantage in their efforts to educate children to meet ambitious state performance standards. The Legislature should ensure that the basis for distributing revenues to schools and school districts reflect the actual cost of educating different students.”

“Districts with differing racial compositions have…fared differently under the finance reform….The districts with the highest share of African-American students have had the smallest foundation allowance increases since 1994.”

“The average foundation allowance increase was greater for districts falling between the 20th and 80th percentiles of family income distribution than for the state’s poorest quintile of districts.”

“Enrollment decline overwhelmed the fiscal benefits of modest foundation increases in both central cities and low-income suburbs. In both groups of districts total real foundation revenue has fallen significantly since the adoption of Proposal A.”

“Proposal A facilitates (a population shift from rural and poorer urban areas to suburban districts, and from older suburbs to newer suburbs on the periphery of the state’s metropolitan areas), because school funding follows students as they move. At the same time Proposal A also forces reductions in educational services in districts where enrollment is declining. Newer suburban districts receive large infusions of additional funds to expand their educational offerings, while older urban communities must make staffing and program cuts. These school budgetary changes, in turn, influence households’ perceptions of the conditions of local schools. School closures and teacher layoffs can create negative perceptions that enhance the prospect that additional families will leave a community, creating a self-reinforcing cycle. For these reasons, Proposal A may not only respond to suburban sprawl, but encourage it as well.”

“In contrast to the school funding formulas in several other states, Michigan’s school aid is not adjusted for the different cost of living (and running schools) in different parts of the state, nor does it fully acknowledge the differential cost of educating different kinds of students (e.g., elementary versus secondary students, children with special needs).”

While you might think these findings were posted recently, they actually were written and published ten years ago by David Arsen, Professor of Educational Administration, College of Education, Michigan State University, and David N. Plank, Professor and Co-Director, The Education Policy Center, Michigan State University. (Michigan School Finance Under Proposal A: State Control, Local Consequences. The Education Policy Center at Michigan State University. November 2003).

Arsen and Plank recognized the significant faults of Proposal A even before the Great Recession and a $470 per pupil cut in the foundation allowance under Governor Rick Snyder. This blog post will begin my efforts to demonstrate that the results of combining Proposal A with schools of choice have been nothing more than poorly disguised purposeful efforts from the Engler days to damage public education and move towards greater privatization. And the current Legislature and Governor are playing right along.