Superintendents have questions about governor’s budget proposalPublished 3:58pm Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Governor Rick Snyder is touting his proposed 2013 budget for adding $113 million to education in comparison to 2012.
An additional $120 million from the general fund surplus will be given to school districts that meet five of Snyder’s six “best practices.” A total of $70 million in performance funding is also available for districts that show student growth in certain subjects.
Sounds like a great plan, right?
Not so fast, according to local superintendents.
Niles Community Schools Superintendent Richard Weigel said the increase may only offset retirement costs that are jumping 3 percent this year and another 4 percent in 2013-14.
“The real question is will this be an increase or a decrease? The verdict is still out on that,” Weigel said.
Brandywine Community Schools Superintendent John Jarpe agrees.
“The legislature has some work to do to address that skyrocketing retirement rate,” he said. “In 2013-14, it’s scheduled to be above 30 percent.”
Weigel and Jarpe said they understand where the governor is coming from with his “best practice” requirements to qualify for further funding.
“He’s trying to get schools to improve. He’s putting it more in terms of earning your money, and I think that does make some sense,” Jarpe said.
The six best practices districts must follow in order to qualify are: publishing a community dashboard; serving as a policyholder for health benefits; participation in schools of choice; monitoring student growth in each subject area at least twice a year; offering dual enrollment, advanced placement courses and post-secondary learning opportunities; and offering online or blended learning.
Brandywine is in compliance with most of the best practices, while Weigel said Niles already complies with all the guidelines.
What concerns Weigel are the student achievement improvement requirements to qualify for a portion of the $70 million in performance funding.
“There are really no details,” Weigel said.
He and other superintendents are left wondering how the state will measure student growth to determine if students are improving.
And with the change last year in assessment cut scores, Jarpe is concerned that if the state uses the MEAP or Michigan Merit Exam (MME) as a measuring stick, Brandywine and many other districts might be in trouble.
“Many more of our students, because they changed the scoring, are not scoring proficient,” Jarpe said.
One positive for most school districts is an additional $209 million for early learning and childcare programs.
Both Niles and Brandywine participate in the Berrien County Great Start Readiness Program for early learners, which will benefit from the increase.
“It’s important,” Weigel said. “We want students becoming readers at the earliest possible age. Those students will have greater success through the rest of their K-12 journey.”
A look at the governor’s budget proposal
Gov. Rick Snyder has released his recommended state budget for the 2013 fiscal year. Some of the highlights include:
Arts and culture: An additional $3.6 million for arts and culture
Families: $25 million invested to expand Healthy Kids Dental Program; funding to enhance child welfare services for abused and neglected children; increasing the rate paid to foster and adoptive parents by $3 per day
Economic development: A total of $195 million in funding for Michigan Economic Development Corp. to continue “economic gardening” with $25 million for film credits
Education: An additional $113 million into education; $120 million for school districts who comply with “best practices”; $70 million in performance funding centered on student growth
Higher education: Funding increase of 3 percent for community colleges and universities based on new distribution formulas.
Municipalities: $210 million for economic vitality incentive program for local municipalities who comply with certain standards; $125.6 million for new incentive-based program for counties
Public safety: An additional $15 million in general fund for law enforcement enhancement
Rainy day: $130 million in Budget Stabilization Fund
Roads: $119 million in general fund revenues to ensure the full match of all federal highway and transit aid available
Technology: Investing $50 million in funding for technology to replace outdated technology applications and improve efficiency in state government