Monday, May 15, 2006

Citizens for Equity

Michigan's Proposal A promised to provide adequate funding for Michigan's public schools in part by pooling property tax monies and redistributing it on a more equitable basis. Here in Leelanau, we were making something of a sacrifice by agreeing to this scheme. After all, some of our property values are among the highest in the state. But we had been pretty close witnesses to the Kalkaska school district's budget crisis. I remember thinking at the time that the kids whose schools closed halfway through the year for lack of funds were my kids' peers. I wasn't building a livable world for my kids if the folks they would live among were going to be only half educated.

I might have been less enthusiastic about Proposal A if I had known that certain school districts were already angling out of the funding equity that was one of the goals of Proposal A. Through a small loophole called "20j hold-harmless" millages, a number of districts from the politically powerful southeast area of Michigan retained the right to levy enhancement millages. According to Citizens For Equity:

Michigan's funding system continues to differentiate between students based on geographical location and provides substantially greater funding for certain areas in the state. This funding is based almost entirely on political power. Politically powerful districts in the Southeast portion of our state have benefited greatly from enhanced state funding while certain other districts have been forced to live with minimum funding levels. This differentiation in funding creates unequal educational opportunities and puts students from low funded districts at a disadvantage to their peers from higher funded areas.
Some downstate schools are collecting as much as $12,000 per student compared to the base funding of $6875. Our local districts lived without "raises" to the per pupil grant for many years, even as their fixed costs went up.

Citizens for Equity is a new lobbying group aiming to publicize and correct this inequity. They are planning a public information meeting on June 8th in Traverse City. You can find more information on their website here.

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