LANSING – House Democrats today unanimously rejected an omnibus education budget that favors charter and cyber school students over kids attending traditional public schools while stripping funding from at-risk students who live in poverty.
“This budget takes a wrong turn when it comes to funding our schools. Some online cyber schools that have significantly less costs to operate are getting the maximum increase of $299 per student, while some traditional brick-and-mortar schools that educate 1.5 million of our state’s kid and maintain school buildings or bus fleets will receive $25 per student. That’s the wrong direction,” said Rep. Sarah Roberts (D-St. Clair Shores), who is the Democratic vice chair of the School Aid Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. “This budget gives some of the biggest funding increases to online cyber schools. It’s blatantly unfair to give smaller funding increases to schools that have to do much more, such as providing busing, meals, libraries and staff for special needs students.”
Among the most egregious features of the omnibus education budget are measures that would remove $100 million in funding designated to help at-risk students and remove $26 million to ensure students know how to read before leaving the third grade – measures the governor supports. The education budget also eliminates funding for bilingual education, adult education and math and science centers, while allowing only a modest 1 percent increase for colleges and universities – all while increasing funding for charter and cyber schools.
“Having world-class colleges and universities is absolutely critical to our state’s ability to attract companies in growing fields with high-paying jobs. Investing in higher education is investing in our future,” said House Democratic Floor Leader and House Appropriations Committee member Rep. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing). “But instead of investing in our future, we’re not even giving colleges and universities enough funding to keep up with inflation. This short-sighted budget will come back to hurt us.”
Before voting on the omnibus education budget, House Democrats suggested numerous changes that would have corrected the flaws in the budget and reprioritized it to focus on classrooms and school kids. Those proposals included amendments that would have restored funding to at-risk students, cutting cyber schools funding in half to help fund programs like the third-grade reading program, restored funding to math and science centers and restored funding to adult education and bilingual education. None of those amendments were supported.
“The House Democrats cannot support an education budget that so obviously lets down Michigan’s children,” said House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills). “Funding our schools and providing Michigan kids with the absolute best education possible is our duty, and Michigan citizens trust us to do right by their kids. We’re hopeful that the blunders of this bill are corrected before we vote on the budget in its final form.”