Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Defining equity in school funding the "Michigan way!"

The slide below depicts the foundation allowance per pupil for Michigan's school districts. Note there are several paths and based on a simple trend analysis, never shall they meet. The "promise of Proposal A" was to produce at a minimum equality in per pupil funding. And while there has been some narrowing of the funding gap since 1994, much of that gain was made in the early years but has slowed since. It will take decades before the lines converge but that's only assuming that increases will be provided. Under the current Governor and legislature, those increases don't look promising.

According to the House Fiscal Agency (Dec 2011), the difference between the highest and lowest districts before Proposal A was $6,900 while that gap had "shrunk" to $5,008 as of last school year. There's no indication of any accounting for inflation in the HFA figures.

While all of this is pretty entertaining (and depressing at the same time), the likelihood of districts even being on dollar-per-dollar equal terms anytime soon is next to none. What's interesting is that the more than $5K per pupil difference between my district (one of those along the bottom line) and the top line districts would provide us with $9 million more dollars this year that could fund a longer school day and year-round school to address the many needs of our low-income, high limited English proficiency district.

Since Proposal A, the state has been on a whirlwind trip putting more demands and requirements on school districts. Added high-stakes assessments, setting minimum four-year, on-time graduation requirements, and mandating a complete high school graduation curriculum has led to increasing costs across the board, let alone in the hundreds of districts serving poor urban and rural communities. Providing a competitive education for kids who come from poor communities, learning English as a second language, and generally having to confront far more obstacles to success than the more affluent districts is tough enough when money and resources are there.

But the fact is, the funding is not there, especially for districts in poor communities. Bet you can't guess where some of the most affluent districts are on the graph!

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