- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan school districts will receive between $70 and $140 more in traditional per-pupil funding under compromise legislation headed for a vote in the Legislature.

A conference committee on Tuesday approved a $13.9 billion budget covering preschool through 12th-grade education in which districts getting the minimum $7,251 will receive $140 more in the next fiscal year, and districts receiving the $8,099 maximum will get $70 more.

The move is meant to reduce the gap between higher- and lower-funded schools. With completion of the school spending plan, final legislative votes on the entire $55 billion state budget are expected Wednesday and Thursday.

Overall, the school aid budget will rise by $209 million, or 1.5 percent.

The Republican-controlled panel voted to eliminate $126 million in “categorical” payments to districts and charter schools that meet best practices and improve test scores. Nearly $380 million will go toward schools with “at-risk” students, $70 million more than this fiscal year.

The budget ensures that wealthier districts losing performance-based funding still get a net increase of $25 per student. Poorer districts with more disadvantaged students may see per-pupil increases in the range of $250.

“This is a good compromise, and the needle moves to trying to get more into the foundation allowance and less categoricals,” said Rep. Tim Kelly, a Saginaw Township Republican who chaired the House-Senate committee.

“It was not widely perceived in the field as helpful,” he said of rewarding districts for hitting best practice benchmarks. “I don’t know that we need to incent repeatedly good behavior.”

Lawmakers stashed $50 million in case they later agree to Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s request to cover debt in Detroit’s troubled state-run school district. That debate is unlikely to be resolved until the fall at the earliest.

Snyder had sought $75 million for financially “distressed” districts in his budget plan.

“It’s just as likely to go back into the foundation allowance as it is to go to Detroit,” Kelly said of the unappropriated money.

The budget has $26 million in new funding for the GOP governor’s initiative to improve students’ reading skills by third grade. Michigan will spend $893 million - $216 million more - to cover a portion of districts’ ballooning retirement expenses.

Legislators also agreed with Snyder’s request for $2.6 million to prep state assessments of kindergartners, first- and second-graders to begin in the 2016-17 academic year. State testing now does not start until third grade.

Lawmakers said they want to gauge the impact of recent increased spending on a preschool program for disadvantaged 4-years-old.

“That’s not going to be the kid sitting at a computer,” Republican Sen. Goeff Hansen of Hart, the Senate’s top K-12 budget writer, said of the kindergarten assessment. “It’s more … somebody is watching and asking and things like that.”

Four Republicans and one Democrat voted for the bill. Another Democrat, Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood of Taylor, abstained.

“This is definitely a budget that is a step in the right direction,” said Rep. Sarah Roberts, a Democrat from St. Clair Shores.

___

Online:

Breakdown of funding for each school district and charter school: http://1.usa.gov/1GVYztc

___

Follow David Eggert at http://twitter.com/DavidEggert00

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide