2022 Governors Election May Impact Public Education Funding
Michigan’s public schools have been underfunded for two decades, but the results of the 2022 gubernatorial election could change that, education advocates say.
During her first term as governor, Gretchen Whitmer made K-12 funding a priority by allocating $ 17.1 billion in COVID relief money to public schools, said David Crim, communications consultants at the Michigan Education Association, which on Dec. 3 issued a press release approving the re-election of Governor Whitmer, Secretary of State Benson and Attorney General Nestlé.
Crim said the 2021-2022 school funding budget that was passed over the summer was “historic and transformational.”
Creating a better future for education
K-12 funding was hit hard in 2011 when newly elected governor Snyder diverted money from public education to fund corporate tax cuts, Crim said.
“You can’t say you’re supporting public education and cutting funding,” Crim said. “You can’t say that you support public education and continue to undermine teachers. These things don’t go together.
Election day for governor is the most important day for education finance and policy, Hecker said. He said he encouraged voters to determine the candidates’ stance on K-12 funding before voting.
“Everyone who runs for office says they support public education, but voters need to consider what the candidates are actually proposing to do,” he said.
According to data from the state of Michigan, per student funding in the majority of school districts has increased from $ 8,111 in the 2019-2020 school year to $ 8,700 for the 2021-2022 school year.
Bloomfield Hills Public Schools in Oakland County received $ 12,517 per student for the 2021-2022 school year, while Saugatuck Public Schools in Allegan County received only $ 8,686 per student. raised.
“A $ 17.1 billion increase in funding for K-12 education is wonderful,” Crim said. “It won’t make up for two decades of underfunding public education in Michigan, but it’s a good start.”
Focus on students
David Lyons, an English teacher at Kenowa Hills High School, said the district used some of the extra funds to hire more staff.
Lyons said the district hired a school nurse for each building, a diversity equity and inclusion director and a transition coordinator for graduate students.
“When the state examines financing needs, it is based on standardized test results. Hopefully they will focus on the health issues of the brain, ”Lyons said. “We want to be able to work with these students to avoid incidents like we did at Oxford.”
Lyons said he is concerned about how the district will continue to support its new hires once COVID relief funds run out. He said he paid attention to what the gubernatorial candidates came up with.
“I’m listening for a focus on the social and emotional parts of students,” Lyons said. “I am also looking to use the funds available to put money back in the classrooms.”
Kindergarten to Grade 12 funding then and now
Crim said continued funding increases under Gov. Whitmer depends on who is elected to Congress.
“Our education system is in a better place now than it was before, especially with what Governor Whitmer did,” Crim said. “Our goal leading up to this election is to make sure we elect and re-elect people who support public schools and public school employees.”
Over the past 20 years, K-12 funding has become more dependent on state funding than on local taxes, Crim said. However, some districts in high income areas still benefit from higher per pupil funding due to the lingering effect of local tax revenues.
“Part of the problem is that for-profit charter schools are now receiving $ 1 billion a year from our K-12 budget,” he said. “Much of this money has been diverted from neighborhood public schools. “
Lack of education funding hasn’t always been a problem in Michigan. Crim said Michigan ranked first among the Great Lakes states in funding education and student achievement 20 years ago.
However, data from 2020 shows Michigan ranks bottom in the region in both categories, he said.
Other sources of funding
Many school districts receive additional funds from foundations that alumni and community members donate to, said Amy Stuursma, executive director of the East Grand Rapids School Foundation.
“The funds raised are used to improve teaching and learning in our district beyond what the district can do with general funds,” she said. “It comes in the form of classroom improvement grants or the programs we fund. “
Stuursma said the foundation’s funding is used for a combination of meeting basic district needs and improvements.
“When we were founded over 30 years ago, we were meant to be just improvements,” she said. “As times have changed and funding has been reduced, we have had to fund some of the most basic programs in the district. “
The foundation was instrumental in preserving programs that would have been cut when funding was cut, Stuursma said.
“We hope to return to focusing more on improving our district instead of fixing the places where funding has been cut,” Stuursma said.
Over the years, the foundation has funded teacher training, scholarships, scientific data collection devices, the reorganization of classroom libraries and the bringing of special guests to schools, she said. declared.
Not all school districts have access to the same community resources as East Grand Rapids, so funding remains an issue for them, Crim said.
Despite only a few miles between the East Grand Rapids Public School Districts and Grand Rapids Public School Districts, there are significant funding disparities between the two. For the 2019-2020 school year, EGRPS received approximately $ 200 more than GRPS in per student funding.
Mary Bouwense, full-time president of the Grand Rapids Education Association, said GRPS needs additional funds to meet infrastructure needs.
“We have a whole range of buildings, some quite new and some dating from the early 19th century,” she said. “It is disrespectful for children to have to go to a collapsing school with broken sidewalks and leaky ceilings.”
Increase in financing equity
David Hecker, president of the American Federation of Teachers in Michigan, said legislation passed to increase K-12 funding was bipartisan, but Governor Whitmer played a major role.
“We applaud Governor Whitmer, her leadership and the latest K-12 budget,” he said. “It really helped some districts that were underfunded. “
Hecker said the budget helped even out funding, but it didn’t create equitable funding. The School Finance Research Collaborative determines equitable funding taking into account the differences in resources and needs among school districts.
“Most schools in lower income communities need more funding for their students to succeed than school districts with more middle and upper class families,” he said.
Public schools need at least $ 4 billion more to achieve equitable funding, Hecker said.
Additional pressure on teachers
Sandy Keeney, an early childhood special education teacher at Lowell Public Schools, said she has seen a dramatic decrease in education funding over her 36 years of teaching.
Keeney said other districts near Lowell are better funded.
“I would like the education funding to be distributed more evenly, Forest Hills is adjacent to us and they get more funding per student,” she said.
Keeney said funding is dwindling each year and she has to purchase supplies for her class with her own money.
The shortage of teachers
Lack of funding is directly responsible for problems such as the shortage of teachers, Crim said.
“Teachers have been underpaid, overworked and disrespectful for years,” he said. “After the 2020-2021 school year, we have seen a 40% increase in teacher retirements. “
New teachers do not stay on the ground either. Over the past decade, one in five new teachers have left the profession in their first five years, Crim said.
“I have been with MEA for 30 years. I never saw a drop in morale or more frustration, ”Crim said. “Many lawmakers have no interest in paying higher salaries to teachers and they don’t believe the teacher shortage is real. ”
“If we continue to have this serious shortage of educators, politicians are going to have to decide whether they want to fund schools or if they want to continue to see the destruction of public schools in Michigan,” Crim said.