LANSING — House Democrats were disappointed tonight with the final form of the education budget for Fiscal Year 2016-2017, which passed the House 74 to 34 during another long session. Central among the many issues facing the budget is the unbalanced funding of charter schools and the potentially unconstitutional funding for private schools.

“We had an opportunity to truly invest in public education and our children, instead our precious school dollars are diverted in several ways,” said Rep. Sarah Roberts (D-St. Clair Shores). “Charter schools are being given even more opportunity to make a larger profit in a budget that also violates our state constitution by giving money to private schools.”

“This budget represents an absolutely irresponsible allocation of taxpayer money,” said Rep. Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor). “Unfortunately, it will be Michigan’s kids who pay the highest price for it. Republicans are prioritizing private over public schooling, to the detriment of parents, students and communities across the state. They’ve crafted a bad plan in order to take care of their charter school donors and companies that want to profit off of our public education system.”

Among many of the controversial features of the revised school aid budget:

  • $2.5 million for non-public schools to reimburse them for incurred costs from state mandates — a potentially unconstitutional provision.
  • A sum of $5 million set aside for school CEOs to take over local schools
  • Cyber schools get largest student funding increase even though their cost to educate is lower.
  • A weak appropriation for higher education funding, well below the governor’s recommendation, with only a 1.4 percent bump for community colleges.

 “We can’t claim to be working to provide quality education across our state when we’re refusing to appropriately fund higher education,” said Minority Floor Leader Sam Singh (D-East Lansing). “This budget not only ignores the real needs of universities — who without this funding will be forced to displace costs onto the students — but flies in the face of the executive recommendations for investment levels. Such inadequate funding guarantees that Michigan’s students will be saddled with debt for years to come. We owe it to them to do better.”

“Where we send our money is a direct reflection of our priorities, and it is clear from this budget that helping Michigan students is not a priority,” said Rep. Henry Yanez (D-Sterling Heights). “We are limiting opportunities for our kids at every age, and that includes not investing enough in community colleges. The cost of higher education has already priced so many bright kids out of the promising futures they deserve, and for many community college is their only gateway to a better life. Michigan’s economy won’t grow if we’re not investing in our future workforce, and that is going to hurt us all in the long run.”