Michigan law typically allows the bulk of state funding to follow students to whichever public school district they choose. This encourages competition, and research shows parents are likely to choose a better school for their kids.
But that changed this year. In response to the disruption COVID-19 has caused, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Legislature recently enacted a law that bases 75% of school funding on how many students a district had last year and only 25% based on student counts this year.
This directly hurts students and families who need new opportunities. If school districts that offer better educational opportunities for children or more flexible options for families only get 25% of state funding for new students, they are far less likely to offer school choice. Several districts have already said they will stop accepting students from other districts. So, just when families need more flexibility and choices during today’s pandemic pressures, the 75-25 rule punishes schools and districts that work to provide them with quality, attractive options.
There is a chance to fix this badly flawed rule, but it has to be done when Lansing lawmakers put together a final budget deal in September. Funds can be restored to protect and respect parents’ different educational choices, so students can get the type of learning and support they need. Some lawmakers have said they recognize the problem and are willing to fix it, but they need to hear from those most affected to see the urgency and importance of the matter.
This funding issue negatively affects thousands of Michigan students, and parents are rising up to share their concerns. Education funds should support the schools and programs parents choose, because they are offering what students need. They should not be sent to the child’s previous school.
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