Michigan Education Budget Could Lead to School Closures
Gov. Rick Snyder signed a $16.8 billion education budget, which is the last of the governor’s two terms. The budget is being criticized when it comes to a provision regarding “partnership” districts. These districts are Michigan’s lowest-performing schools and have had to work with the Michigan Department of Education in an effort to remain open.
But under the new budget, these schools are facing either losing at least 25% of their staff or being closed altogether if their students don’t show that they’re on track to meet proficiency standards over the next two or three years.
“They would lose some really good teachers that do great things with kids who may not score well,” Melissa Wriggelsworth, a teacher at the Lansing Public School District, explained. “I don’t look at students coming in as a math score.”
Already, most public schools face a 10% lower student-teacher ratio than privately funded schools. Last year, late-state Superintendent Brian Whiston helped negotiate to save some of the underperforming schools. And according to Michigan education department spokesman Bill DiSessa, the partnership agreements already provoke accountability in these schools.
“…But what I can tell you is that the partnership model has been working,” DiSessa said. “We are moving forward with it as we are in our overall plan, and that’s to make Michigan a top 10 education state in 10 years.”
Anna Heaton, Snyder’s spokeswoman, explained that the new legislation is not on course to change the nature of the agreements and that the governor does believe in the partnership model.
However, GOP lawmakers aren’t as hopeful about the partnerships. The partnerships have been described as no more than “a workaround vehicle created by the governor and superintendent to get around the law.” Many state representatives do anticipate closures.
The new budget will allow $120 to $240 more to be spent on each Michigan student. Public and charter schools will have an allowance between $7,871 to $8,409. This funding is going towards helping students improve their performance, particularly at underperforming schools. And with one in four children in the U.S. having a vision problem that may disrupt their learning, schools hope to be able to use their funding to provide their students with the resources they need.
Despite the increased funding for certain schools, education committee members remain concerned that the teachers at underperforming schools are not going to receive the support they need and instead, be laid off or have their school closed. However, the department approves of Snyder’s increased spending in not only early childhood development, but career and technical training as well.