Thursday, February 26, 2009

20j Again Into the Breach

The annual attack on 20j funds represent either ignorance, arrogance, or willful misrepresentation. Section 20j “funds” represent nothing more than the correction of a language flaw embedded in the original Proposal A legislation (imagine that, a mistake in legislation) that surfaced in the 1999-2000 school year.

The correction (added as section 20j) ensures that hold harmless districts (like Birmingham), get at least the same MINIMUM increase in the foundation allowance as all other districts. The original language created an unintended penalty that negatively affected the 40 districts covered by 20j. The idea of “minimum” is key because many non-20j districts receive TWICE the minimum foundation increase. The 20j adjustment was designed to protect the integrity of Proposal A - a letter from Michael J. Bouchard (now Oakland County Sheriff), who was floor leader of the Michigan Senate reminds legislators of this fact.

To review some myths and facts:

MYTH: 20j is welfare to “rich” districts.

FACT: As discussed above, 20j ensures all districts get only the same minimum increase as all other districts; many non-20j districts get twice the minimum.

MYTH: 20j funds are why “rich” districts are “rich.”

FACT: The major funding differential between hold harmless districts and other districts is 100% attributable to LOCAL property taxes that have been in effect since Proposal A was passed. For Birmingham that difference is represented by $3,188 per student (an amount that has been constant since 1994 -- the amount has not increased and is fixed by Proposal A). Since 1999 total 20j adjustments for Birmingham aggregate $122.23 per student (less than $1 million).

MYTH: Taking 20j away from “rich” districts will solve the funding problems of other districts.

FACT: Collectively, 20j represents about $32 per student (1,620,531 K12 Students in Michigan).

Rather than punishing 20j districts, we should all work together to address our biggest costs: healthcare and pension costs. Current pension costs are nearly $1,000 per student per year. If fully funded the burden would approach $24,744 per student (or an additional $853/student per year for 29 years).

Attacking 20j just “re-breaks” the Proposal A model. The Governor and the Legislature keep running away from the real problems at the expense of every citizen and child in the State of Michigan.

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