K-12 budget cuts should not hurt highest-need students

May 26, 2020 by

Disadvantaged students shouldn’t also have to shoulder the most severe losses.

Prolonged shutdowns of large parts of Michigan’s economy due to novel coronavirus risks will likely necessitate historic cuts for Michigan schools, with some fearing it could be as high as 25%. The default option currently being proposed by most legislators is for these cuts to come out of the state’s primary per-pupil funding formula as a flat amount for every student, regardless of the district they reside in. However, while an across-the-board cut to the state’s baseline per-pupil funding level sounds fair on its face, it would end up disproportionately harming the state’s most vulnerable students.

While there are a wide variety of local, county, state, and federal funding streams in Michigan’s K-12 system, the Foundation Allowance (FA) is the single largest funding pot for schools. In a nutshell, the FA specifies a baseline dollar amount that every student is entitled to for their public education. Then, the student’s district taxes local property at a standardized rate to raise money towards that baseline amount. Finally, the state fills in the gaps if the local share isn’t sufficient to cover each student’s funding entitlement. While there are some complexities that complicate the overall fairness of the FA, its main goal is to equalize day-to-day operations funding across districts of varying property wealth.

When there’s a budget shortage, the automatic adjustment established by statute is that the state first makes cuts to its main formula, rather than other state grants. If the legislature can’t appropriate sufficient funds to cover each district’s FA entitlement, the cuts are delivered to each district as a flat amount per pupil.

While this may sound fair at first, it isn’t. That’s because it doesn’t account for existing spending disparities — which already tend to shortchange higher-need districts.

Source: Opinion: K-12 budget cuts should not hurt highest-need students

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.