LANSING – House Democrats said today that a proposed School Aid Fund budget being considered by the Michigan House of Representatives doesn’t do enough to help children living in poverty and favors charter and cyber schools at the expense of the 1.5 million children attending traditional public schools.

“It’s unfortunate that House Republicans missed the mark on bringing more equity to funding our schools. The 41 schools that get the top foundation allowance are all charter schools, some of those are cyber schools,” said Rep. Sarah Roberts (D-St. Clair Shores), who is the Democratic vice chair of the School Aid Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. “These same cyber schools cost much less to operate, yet half of them are getting the highest increase while other traditional public schools are getting the least.”

The Republican-backed School Aid Fund budget falls short in several ways. It would remove the governor’s proposed $100 million in funding designated to help at-risk youth students in our state.  It would also eliminate the governor’s requested $26 million that was intended to ensure all children know how to read before leaving the third grade. In addition, it favors cyber schools over traditional schools – even though cyber schools have no school buildings or fleet of school buses to maintain and fewer teachers to pay. The budget also eliminates funding for adult education, bilingual education and math and science centers, while giving public colleges and universities a meager 1 percent funding increase – barely enough to keep up with the pace of inflation.

“Instead of investing in all of our kids and their education, this budget proposes that we shortchange schoolchildren and favor some of them over others,” said House Democratic Floor Leader and House Appropriations Committee member Rep. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing). “We know we can do better than this, which is why we introduced amendments that would correct these mistakes and make sure all kids get the best education we can give them.”

House Democrats offered changes to the budget that will ensure that all Michigan kids will get the kind of world-class, quality education they need to prepare them for rewarding careers. Amendments offered by House Democrats would:

  • Restore $100 million in funding for at-risk students
  • Restore $26 million in funding for the proposed third-grade reading program
  • Ensure that every school district sees a per-pupil funding increase of at least $75
  • Give cyber schools 50 percent of the foundation allowance given to brick-and-mortar schools
  • Restore funding for math and science centers, which would underline the state’s commitment to emphasize education in the science, technology, engineering and math fields
  • Restore funding for adult and bilingual education

Those amendments were rejected by the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee during its meeting today. Despite bipartisan opposition to the budget, the House Appropriations Committee approved it and sent it to the House floor for a full vote.

“It’s a shame that we are missing an opportunity to make smart investments in the children that we know need it the most,” Rep. Roberts said. “As the appropriation process moves to the House floor, House Democrats will continue to fight for a School Aid Fund budget that is fair to all of our children and puts all of them on the path to success.”