Under a proposal released in December by a subcommittee of the House Education Committee, led by Rep. Gerald Van Woerkom, R-Norton Shores, school districts losing money from declining enrollments would receive additional state funding. The plan also would provide incentives for schools that seek to consolidate services or districts.

The plan, dubbed the "Declining Enrollment Assistance Program," would allow qualifying districts to average student counts that determine school funding over three years. The House Fiscal Agency estimates the plan could cost the state up to $102 million annually.

The plan is a response to complaints from districts losing students through the state's public schools-of-choice program, which allows students in participating districts to choose another school in their own or a neighboring district if their local school is failing to provide the education they need.

The schools-of-choice law, adopted in 1996, is designed to create an economic incentive for districts to improve by tying funding to the number of students they attract and educate. Districts unable to retain students lose revenue attached to departing students, but are no longer required to spend money to educate those students.

State to encourage personal financial management classes for students

In January, the Michigan House passed a bill which requires the Department of Education to develop, and encourage schools to offer model financial literacy programs that teach students personal financial management skills and the basic principles involved with earning, spending, saving, and investing.

The bill, HB 5327, sponsored by Reps. Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, Alexander Lipsey, D-Kalamazoo, and five others, now heads to the Senate Committee on Education for consideration.

Bomb threat bill would postpone driver's licenses

Senate Bill 645 passed in the Michigan Senate in December would prevent students who make false bomb threats from obtaining their driver's licenses until 21 years of age.

The bill, sponsored by Sens. Valde Garcia, R-St. Johns, George Hart, D-Dearborn, and nine others, was offered in response to a rash of bomb threats at Michigan public schools in 2001. The House Committee on Education is currently considering the bill.

For up-to-date information on these bills and other legislative activity, visit www.michiganvotes.org; enter the bill number to view bill history, sponsors, and analysis.