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Proposed School Funding Plans Differ Greatly

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LANSING (AP) - The education budgets proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder as well as those passed this week by the Michigan Senate and House significantly differ, which means lawmakers will have plenty to work out before a plan can become law for the budget year beginning in October.

The House passed a kindergarten-through-12th grade school-aid budget Thursday with per-student funding between $6,846 and $8,019 – unchanged from last year and the same proposed by Snyder. The Senate bill passed Wednesday proposes increasing per-student spending by between $116 and $232, to $8,135 and $7,078, respectively.

Snyder proposes increasing by $24 million the state reimbursement to schools to partially offset retirement costs. The House plan increases it by $93.5 million, while the Senate offers no money and redirects most of Snyder’s amount to per-student funding.

Another difference can be seen in funding for kindergarten. State rules approved last year require districts to offer all-day kindergarten to receive full funding for each pupil starting in September, and many districts have changed to full-day kindergarten in anticipation of the change.

Both the governor and the Senate in their budget proposals estimate savings of $50 million will materialize from paying half the funding to half-day programs. The House plan would assume no savings, which is equivalent to spending $50 million.

The lawmakers also will need to reconcile differences in their plans related to money set aside for so-called best practices and student academic performance.

Snyder seeks a combined $190 million for eligible districts, an increase from last year. The House proposes $115 million for best practices and doesn’t provide for student performance, instead adding $75 million for technology improvement grants. For its part, the Senate offers nothing for the best practices grants and $40 million for performance.

“It’s a pretty stark contrast in the big ticket items,” said Kathryn Summers, the Senate Fiscal Agency’s associate director who analyzed the Senate bill and compared it with the other proposals. “There are significant differences among all three pillars.”

The proposals also prompted significant partisan differences.

State Rep. Bill Rogers, R-Brighton, said the goal after last year’s significant budget cuts was getting “to even” funding, and “we have accomplished that.” Birmingham Republican Rep. Chuck Moss said the House budget “continues hard choices” but he’s proud of it.

Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer of East Lansing called her chamber’s budget “horrifying.” She said the last 16 months has seen nearly $1.5 billion taken out of the school-aid fund to backfill the general fund and pay for business tax breaks.

“I think these past two years have been the worst for education that we’ve seen in decades,” she said.

© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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