Education cost study? We doan need no stinkin’ education cost study!
As part of the package of legislation passed to put Proposal 1 on the ballot, Republicans agreed to fund a study of the costs to educate a child in Michigan. Democrats pushed for the study so that smart choices regarding the funding of schools can be made in the future. Republicans not only agreed to it, it was in fact a bill – H.B. 423 – introduced by a Republican and all of the cosponsors were Republican. Twenty-five House Republicans and eight Senate Republicans voted for it. It was signed into law by our Republican governor as Public Act 555 of 2014 and is now actually part of the Revised School Code.
However, with the demise of Prop 1, Republicans are hot to trot to repeal the study. You can read the entire section of the School Code, 380.1281a, that mandates the study HERE. Here’s the essential part:
(2) The department of technology, management, and budget shall enter into a contract for a comprehensive statewide cost study to determine the sufficient resources per pupil to provide a public education that enables a pupil to demonstrate successful completion, in terms of proficiency, of all of the credit requirements of the Michigan merit standard under sections 1278a and 1278b. The department of technology, management, and budget shall also ensure that the study meets all of the following:
(a) Considers whether public resources being committed to public education are distributed in such a way that all children have an equal opportunity to succeed in school.
(b) Is conducted by a vendor who is qualified to conduct the study. The vendor must have proven experience in utilizing multiple national-level research approaches, including at least all of the following types of analysis: successful school district, professional judgment, and evidence-based. The vendor must have a proven ability to combine the data generated from these research approaches to assess at least all of the following:
(i) How strongly the identified data or costs are associated with achieving this state’s student performance goals including, but not limited to, required proficiency in reading and mathematics, and whether this association is sufficient to establish a cause-and-effect relationship.
(ii) The degree to which the data or costs took into consideration efficiency and lowest possible cost of resource delivery.
(iii) The transparency and reliability of the data generated.
(iv) How well the data could be applied to recognize existing public school and pupil cost pressure differences.
(c) Includes at least all of the following:
(i) A determination of the educational resources and related expenditures that are required to provide a quality elementary and secondary education for each pupil in the public schools. The study shall include examining exemplary school districts that are high-performing and low-spending school districts. As part of the determination under this subparagraph, a review shall be conducted of school district efforts in support of public schools.
(ii) An examination of the potential utility of geographic cost-of-education indexing in this state.
(iii) An investigation of additional categories of funding that may be necessary to meet needs unique to schools and pupils, including, but not limited to, the following:
(A) Socioeconomic status.
(B) Limited English proficiency.
(C) Pupils with special education needs.
(D) Scarcity and density of population.
(E) Issues related to the rural, urban, or suburban nature of the school district.
(iv) An examination of the impact of food service costs, transportation costs, costs associated with community services, adult education costs, school building construction and maintenance and other capital costs, and debt service costs.
(v) A determination of the cost impact of pupil population growth and decline.
Senate Bill 319, introduced yesterday by Republican Senator Mike Shirkey, says simply, “Section 1281a of the revised school code, 2 1976 PA 451, MCL 380.1281a, is repealed.”
In an interview with MIRS news service, Shirkey defended his legislation saying, “I think this is clearly a solution searching for a problem. I think it could end up creating more problems than solving problems. I think it’s an unnecessary cost. I think my colleagues are very supportive of not having to deal with this crazy study.”
What’s crazy is trying to fund education in the most intelligent way possible without having any idea what it actually costs to educate kids in our state. It’s imperative that legislators know how various variables impact that cost and understand that it can cost more to educate a child in one set of circumstances than it does in a different set of circumstances. As Democrat Brandon Dillon, one of the main proponents of the study, put it, “It’s almost irresponsible to be making policy based on a guessing game.”
Given the fact that the study was part of a compromise between Republicans and Democrats, Senator Curtis Hertel, Jr. made it clear that reneging on their agreement will make future road funding discussions in the legislature very difficult. “It’s going to make it very hard for us to work together on a future road package if we’re not even going to live up to the agreements we had in the last one,” he said.
When Republicans in Michigan tell you they care about education, that they value it and want what’s best for our kids, don’t listen to their words, watch their actions. Actions like SB 319 tell you everything you need to know.