Friday, May 02, 2008

Michigan School Funding - Part 1, The 20j Myth

School funding in Michigan is complex and composed of many parts, but without understanding the bigger picture of where our money comes from and what "buckets" it gets poured into at the state level, honest debate degrades into minor distractions. A perfect example is the current argument over 20j funds. The common misconception about section 20j is that it represents "welfare" for rich districts. That argument is completely false. People making that argument are either ignorant of the facts or guilty of manipulation, neither position is constructive. As my prior editorial shows, 20j corrected a funding error in the original Proposal A legislation that penalized over 50 school districts. The 20j language simply fixed the law to ensure those 50 districts achieved the same level of year to year funding allowances as everyone else.

Even allowing for 20j, most districts foundation allowance increases have outpaced Birmingham's increase since 1994, a few examples (all data from the state):

As the FACTS show, districts like Traverse City, Alpena, Crawford, and Oscoda have received foundation increases that far outstrip Birmingham's (which includes the 20j adjustment). Find the information yourself at this LINK. All the school funding reports are there to review (as is a large single file for all Michigan Districts). The Alpena, Crawford and Oscoda schools are in Representative Gillard's district and he is the person that wants to take 20j funds away from districts like Birmingham - there is nothing fair or right about his proposal.

We all need to work together in addressing the bigger issues facing school funding - 20j is not what we should spend our energy on. Part 2 of this series will focus on the bigger picture of state funding and the threats that diverted health care funds and a broken pension system pose to our schools. Those are the issues we should all be talking about!

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