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    On Thursday, February 17, Governor Rick Snyder released his budget proposal for FY 2012 and FY 2013. Mr. Snyder has framed the controversial proposal as a "shared sacrifice." Furthermore, he and fellow Republicans portray the proposal as a necessary step to ameliorate Michigan's structural fiscal problems. They believe it is time to "stop kicking the can down the road." Conversely, Democrats, labor unions, various interest groups, and others have criticized the proposal as being unfair and an abandonment of investment in the state. One of the more contentious issues is education funding. And that is understandable as it composes a significant portion of the state's budget. Therefore, this article will offer a comprehensive analysis of how Mr. Snyder's budget proposal will affect K-12 education. A second succeeding article will analyze the budget proposal's effect on post-secondary education (community colleges and universities). .

    The most significant provision of Mr. Snyder's proposal is the creation of the State Education Funding Act. The Act would conjoin revenue from the state's School Aid Fund and general fund to offer comprehensive support for the state's education system; this includes early childhood development programs through post-secondary education. This is born of a desire to create comprehensive support for Michigan's students. The comprehensive appropriations for the Act would total $13.8 billion in FY 2012; this includes $12.2 billion ($10.5 billion state funds) for K-12 funding and the remainder for post-secondary funding. The proposal estimates appropriations of $12.1 billion for K-12 funding in FY 2013.

    The proposal would appropriate approximately $8.8 billion in FY 2012 for basic K-12 operations. That would result in a $564 million reduction from FY 2011; that equates to an approximate $300 reduction in per pupil funding. Notwithstanding, Michigan had already budgeted a $170 reduction in per pupil funding. Therefore, Michigan would experience a $470 reduction in per pupil funding for FY 2012.

    The proposal would appropriate $1.4 billion for special education funding in FY 2012; that is a marginal decrease from FY 2011. It would also appropriate approximately $110 million for early childhood development programs; that is coterminous with FY 2011. Furthermore, it would maintain $1.2 billion for core student supplemental programs; for example, services for academically at-risk pupils ($309 million), adult education ($22 million), vocational education ($35.6 million) and added costs for educating court wards ($8 million).

    The proposal would appropriate $113 million for the Michigan Department of Education; that is an approximate 10 percent decrease from FY 2011. It would appropriate $14.4 million for the Michigan Schools for the Deaf and Blind; that is a 2.1 percent increase from FY 2011. It would also decrease funding for library services by 9.4 percent from FY 2011 for a total of $13.7 million; that includes a $2.3 million cut in state aid to local libraries.

    Furthermore, the proposal challenges Michigan's universities and school districts to institute best practices for cost effectiveness; this includes competitive bidding for non-instructional services and consolidation of non-instructional services with other school districts. The proposal notes that a 10 percent savings in non-instructional services would aggregately yield $300 million in savings. For FY 2013, the proposal would portion $300 million from discretionary funding and make it available to eligible school districts whose employees' share of health insurance costs is comparable to that of state employees. Further details of this provision are forthcoming from the governor.

    Because of the decreases in per pupil funding and other provisions, the proposal has garnered nearly unanimous condemnation from public school officials. In a seemingly hyperbolic statement, Dennis D. McMahan, Hemlock Public Schools Board of Education President, stated the budget proposal "is going to close down schools all over Michigan." Mike Newton, Superintendent of Grand Blanc Community Schools, labeled the cuts "devastating." And Croswell-Lexington Superintendent Kevin Miller stated "this has the potential to destroy K-12 public education in the state of Michigan."

    Although it has already engendered much controversy, the budget proposal is only the first step in Mr. Snyder's plan to refine Michigan's education system. He is scheduled to deliver a special address to the Michigan Legislature in April delineating his agenda for education reform. The Michigan Policy Network has a summary of the Michigan State Board of Education's recommendations for Mr. Snyder. And if the budget proposal is an indication of Mr. Snyder's ambitions for Michigan's education system, the additional reforms will likely be similarly controversial.

    Sources:

    Executive Budget FY 2012 and FY 2013

    http://www.mlive.com/grandblanc/index.ssf/2011/02/grand_blanc_superintendent_cal.html

    http://www.mlive.com/news/saginaw/index.ssf/2011/02/hemlock_board_chief_governors.html

    http://www.thetimesherald.com/article/20110218/NEWS01/102180312/1002/news01/Rick-Snyder-s-shared-sacrifice-concerns-school-officials

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    Andy Chou and Andrew Revard are Education Policy Correspondents for the Michigan Policy Network. Andy is a first-year student in Economics at Michigan State University. Andrew is a senior in Political Science at MSU.