LANSING, Mich. — Michigan schools will begin receiving the same amount of money per student starting this fall.
The change comes after decades of unequal funding.
Lawmakers and advocates say the push to close the funding gap didn’t come from hard political work but simply because there is more money to invest.
“There was money on the table available to do this,” said Doug Pratt who serves as a spokesman for the Michigan Education Association. “It’s something that lawmakers have long wanted to do across both sides of the political aisle and there resources were there to finish the job.”
In previous years, one school might have received thousands of dollars more than another.
In 1994, policy makers decided to change where education funding comes from. Instead of pulling funding for schools from property taxes, Proposal A meant that educational funding was determined at the state level. The proposal was designed to slowly close the gap, but some districts still got more than others.
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“Equalizing education funding has been a promise since the proposal got passed. Unfortunately from the moment that happened the ink wasn’t dry and the tax base started getting cut to feed that. That caused two decades of underfunding education,” Pratt said.
For instance, last year Lansing School District received $8,227 per student while right next door East Lansing schools got nearly $300 more per student and Holt Public Schools got about $100 less.
This fall nearly every school in the mid-Michigan area will receive $8,700 dollars per student.
Republican state Rep. Jack O’Malley, who serves on the House Education Committee, says this final jump to close the gap in education funding was like the final payment on a car.
“You’ve got to understand for the last I don’t know how many years the legislature has been appropriating a little bit more money, a little bit more money to close that gap and so now you’re within that final payment of being able to buy the new car,” he said.
O’Malley says it’s time to close the gap.
“Let’s do it I think where we’re at,” he said.
Although most area schools will be getting more per student, Lansing School District Superintendent Ben Shuldiner tells me schools won’t necessarily receive more money overall.
“It’s not necessarily additional funding, it’s really going to depend on the number of students that come back, because we’re coming out of COVID we’re looking for everything about how to address any of the learning loss,” he said.
Shuldiner says the money will go towards tutoring, mentoring programs and strengthening the district’s existing programs.
“Lansing has a Montessori elementary school that has equine therapy. It has an international baccalaureate high school program,” he said. “So there’s so many wonderful things that Lansing has. We’re going to be using this money to strengthen those programs and to make sure that our students are being served.”
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