House Democrats railed against the School Omnibus budget that passed the House today over strong concerns that the priorities of House Republicans do little to help most students in Michigan. Through subcommittees, committees and even on the House floor before it was voted on, House Democrats pushed for several amendments aimed at the needs of students and school districts across the state, but were met with resistance on all points. They hope to see the Senate take up these measures next.
“Our goal through every level of this budget was to make sure the students of Michigan were priority number one, and that they were given the tools necessary to succeed both now and into the future,” said House Democratic Floor Leader Sam Singh (D-East Lansing), member of the House Appropriations Committee. “We’re pleased to see more funding being put into K-12 schools, but not all districts will see the increase they need to operate effectively, and some areas of the budget seem to focus more on corporate interests. We urge continued consideration of these amendments as the budget moves forward in hopes that our Republican counterparts understand that students must be the priority.”
House Democrats have long championed for a fair per-pupil increase, which was prioritized in this budget with a slight increase. There is also funding for Flint in areas such as school nurses and access to universal pre-school. Additionally, Democrats emphasized their concern that Michigan still ranks 39th out of 50 for higher education financial aid provided at the state level.
“All of Michigan’s public schools should be following the law and providing financial reports on their or their district’s website to be transparent regarding how they are spending taxpayer money. Many for-profit charters think they are above the law,” said state Representative Sarah Roberts (D-St. Clair Shores), minority vice chair of the House Appropriations School Aid subcommittee. “Cyber charter schools are getting the full $120 per-pupil increase, yet they don’t have the same costs as brick-and-mortar schools. As other districts and students suffer with crumbling buildings, cyber schools get to make a larger profit.”
House Democrats also offered several amendments on the House floor to create a School Omnibus budget based more on fairness, including:
- Moving funding for private, for-profit schools to literacy coaches to help students that are struggling
- Putting more funding into higher education to keep the cost of college down
- Take away some funding from cyber schools, as they don’t have the same financial needs as brick-and-mortar schools
- Striking funding language for school CEOs, who would function as de-facto emergency managers
- Putting $10 million back into the budget to fund the replacement M-STEP exam, eliminated under the House budget and include language to continue the Michigan Merit Exam which provides students with a college entrance exam
- Making tampons and other feminine hygiene needs accessible in schools
Unfortunately, all of these amendments were struck down.
“Once again, Republicans are patting themselves on the back because of funding for a few key areas, but they don’t see the big picture of what this budget will do to higher education in Michigan,” said Appropriations Committee member state Representative Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor). “We want our students to be prepared for the jobs of tomorrow, but that cannot happen if we do not adequately fund those higher education opportunities. House Republicans are even furthering the disinvestment to our universities, given that five main institutions, three of which are top research universities, wouldn’t be restored to their level of funding in 2011. This is an embarrassment, and hope our House and Senate colleagues will see this misstep and correct it as the process moves forward.”