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Public School Funding is Crippled, Say Michigan Educators

Panelists at Novi's education forum discuss how Michigan's public schools should be funded.

Despite the lower attendance at the education forum at Novi Middle School Monday, the panelists -- teachers, administrators and politicians -- had much to discuss including public finance of education.  

“Our funding structure and our school structure are not congruent,” said Casandra E. Ulbrich, vice president of the state board of education, D-Rochester Hills.

Proposal A was a running theme throughout the forum.

Proposal A education funding and property tax reforms, approved by Michigan voters in 1994, were meant to fund local schools. However, Proposal A restricts the number of new millage for operations that districts can ask voters to approve.

Also, schools must ask all voters in the intermediate school district in which they are located to approve a new millage.

“We have no freedom under Proposal A to generate our own funds,” said Dennis O’Connor, president of Novi schools board of education.

Sheila Paton, treasurer of the Plymouth-Canton Community school board, said she wondered when first learning about Proposal A why schools couldn't freely ask their communities to help fund their schools.

Proposal A also does not allow for infrastructure costs, Ulbrich said. Some districts have the brand new schools and the latest technology while others don’t have the tax base to support those updates, she said.

“We have to be able to allow communities to help provide what’s important for our children,” said Michele Harmala, associate superintendent at Farmington Public Schools.

Proposal A also closely tied school districts' funding to enrollment.

“I actually think we’re going backwards in terms of our per pupil finding,” said Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton, D-Huntington Woods.

For every pupil a district gains or loses, it also gains or loses money. Michigan Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood, D-Taylor, said that's about $260 per kid that is being diverted away from public schools.  

Panelists also discussed standardized tests and teacher evaluations at the education forum, organized by the Novi Education Association. 

Where do you think public schools should get their funding? Tell us in the comments.

Scott Craig May 16, 2013 at 01:42 PM
Our schools are on a slow starvation diet. The Governor and current legislature cut school funding $470 per pupil 2 years ago. Now that revenue is increasing, they seem determined to make sure that none of this money goes to restoring public school funding. On the other hand, they are ready to fund any for profit charter school and on-line companies despit thei abysmal record Scott Craig Northville Board Trustee
Michael Corliss May 19, 2013 at 04:32 AM
Times were tough for Michigan there for a while, and schools had to skimp, just like everybody else. That's life, I guess. But now that the School Aid Fund is recovering along with the economy, Snyder and his cronies are using it as a cash cow for his wealthy business buddies. That's just wrong. however you look at it.

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