Capital News Service

of the Michigan State University School of Journalism

State board seeks comments on school finance

By CHRISTINE HOMAN
Capital News Service

LANSING – In an attempt to get Michigan out of its economic rut, the state Board of Education has drafted a plan for revising the way public education is financed.

The plan outlines how the board would like the education system to look and proposes financial changes to help make that happen.

“We want children, wherever they live in Michigan, to have an equitable opportunity for public education,” said board member Elizabeth Bauer, D-Birmingham.

Bauer said the economy spurred the plan’s creation.

She said the board saw that the current system for raising and spending money isn’t sustainable.

“We just could not keep going forward,” Bauer said.

The plan has six guiding principles: equality of education; a predictable, long-lasting funding system; support for learning from early childhood to higher education; shared sacrifice; modernizing resources; and combining reforms, cuts and targeted investment.

The proposed changes include consolidating local and intermediate school district administrative services, implementing a graduated income tax and taxing private pensions.

The plan is open for public comments until May 11, when the board will begin reviewing them. Once the comments have been evaluated, the board will vote on the plan and take steps to implement it.

Bauer said, “The comments I’ve seen so far have a wide range of opinion. Some people say don’t raise the sales tax, some people say don’t raise the income tax, some people say we should fund things differently.”

Bauer said the board’s ultimate goal is a system where all students have access to a quality education and educational resources, such as technology.

“We want our kids to be players in the global economy,” Bauer said.

Doug Pratt, director of communications for the Michigan Education Association (MEA), agreed that it’s necessary to change school financing and said many components of the draft plan, such as the graduated income tax and tax on services, are good ideas.

The MEA is the state’s largest union of public school employees.

However, Pratt said many details in the plan are sketchy at best.

“Many of the reforms outlined in this board document are more games and gimmicks similar to what the Legislature has tried in recent years that have failed to fix the problem,” Pratt said.

The plan overall has good points and bad points, Pratt said. “It’s a mixed bag.”

He said the MEA will work with the state to improve the plan.

Hildy Cobett, director of public and community relations for Utica Community Schools expressed similar concerns.

“If this proposal propels Michigan into providing a more highly-educated work force, then yes, this plan would be both relevant and important,” Corbett said.

“With that said, there must be a consistent and adequate form of funding to allow school districts to provide the necessary reforms and restructuring to strengthen our educational system in Michigan. Without that, this plan is merely a grouping of ideas that can never come to fruition,” she said.

© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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