District administrators around Michigan seem somewhat happy with Governor Rick Snyder's proposed K-12 School Aid budget for 2016-17. At the very least, I guess you could smile because it's not a cut, but of course the legislature which seems somewhat at odds with the Governor these days still has to produce their respective proposals. Anything can happen between now and the time three people huddle in a closed room to decide the actual budget.
Despite the somewhat rosy picture painted by the Governor this past Wednesday, it's important to point out that the promise of Proposal A enacted nearly twenty-two years ago is still a long way from being realized, particularly in the lowest funded school districts. Under that proposal which was passed by the voters of Michigan, the inequity of school funding between districts was allegedly going to be a thing of the past. Well, perhaps someday in the distant future, we might just be able to celebrate that realization.
But for now, let's take a look at reality.
One of the highest funded school districts in Michigan is in Oakland County on the east side of the state, a district considered a very affluent area where parents pretty much provide their kids with rich learning opportunities in and outside of school. That district (I'm not going to name it as this is not a sticks-and-stone post) had a foundation allowance (the basic operational funding source for all Michigan public schools) of $10,454 per student back in 1995. This current year, the district's foundation allowance is $12,004 per student (taken from the legislative conference report) and if Governor Snyder's proposal wins out, will likely be $12,064 per student next year. The average annual increase for this district since Proposal A is $73 per student.
Now my school district on the west side of the state, a district that according to the federal government has the 19th highest rate of child poverty (ages 5-17), the foundation allowance in 1995 was a paltry $5,365 per student (51% of the funding provided to the more affluent district). This year it is $7,391 (but is only worth $4,752 when adjusted for 1995 dollars) and under the Governor's proposal, it may rise to $7,511 (62% of the affluent district's funding). This represents an annual average increase for our district of $98 per student since 1995.
So as you can see, the gap is closing but how long until both districts are equitably funded through the foundation allowance?
Over the past twenty-two years, my district has received on average $24 more dollars per student from the foundation allowance, but is still behind the more affluent district by a difference of $4,553 (proposed for 2016-17) per student. At the rate of $24 per year, it will only take another 186.9 years for the two districts to be at foundation allowance parity.
Until then, those with the least will continue to be...those with the least.
Is it too early to get a committee together to plan the celebration?