State education budget a step in right direction

Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed a $128 million increase for K-12 schools, which may be good news for some but still a cause for concerns for others.

The budget will continue to allocate extra money to the lowest-funded school districts to reduce the equity gap between those districts and the wealthier districts.

The districts on the low end of the funding scale will receive a $100 per-pupil increase while the better-funded ones will receive a $50 per-pupil increase, with an additional $50 for all high schoolers.

However, Bill Saunders, superintendent of Marquette Area Public Schools, said the increase isn’t enough to cover basics like employees’ salaries and insurance as well as higher utility bills.

John Helmholdt, executive director of communication and external affairs for Grand Rapids Public Schools, said the approximate 1 percent increase won’t even cover the cost of inflation.

Moving in the direction of adding more dollars for lower-funded districts, which most likely can use the extra money, is something we support.

We also realize the state has limited funds for schools.

However, it must be acknowledged that the increase proposed in Gov. Snyder’s budget might not be enough.

Students with special needs and those who come from a disadvantaged socioeconomic position need more resources to keep pace than a student in a more privileged situation.

A report commissioned by the state of Michigan in 2016, the Michigan Education Finance Study, noted that while Michigan was already spending 11 percent more for at-risk students and 24 percent more for English language learners than it does for students who aren’t at-risk or struggling with English, those rates “are far below” what’s recommended.

It’s hard to divvy up funds on a student-by-student basis, but as a group, poorer students need a bigger piece of the pie.

The proposed budget isn’t perfect — and there’s room for improvement — but it’s a step in the right direction.

— The Mining Journal, Marquette

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