Public Education Finance Act

Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace

Education funding

Creating a 21st Century public education funding model

Observer & Eccentric

By Peter Ruddell
Guest Columnist

Michigan’s public school finance act predates the Internet by at least two years.

Michigan’s public education system must continue to improve and advance to position our children to compete globally in a knowledge-based economy. Gov. Rick Snyder invited Richard McLellan, Mary Kay Shields and myself to propose a new Michigan Public Education Finance Act to replace the School Aid Act of 1979. Our goal is to ensure Michigan’s $14 billion annual investment in education produces citizens who can thrive in a new economy.

Michigan’s school calendar, based on a 19th century agrarian society when children were needed to harvest crops and an early 20th century industrial factory model, must move to a 21st century model that reflects our global information age.

Jobs available

There are 60,000 job postings on Michigan’s Pure Talent Connect ( But many of these job postings cannot be filled because too many Michigan students are not college or career ready when they exit our public education system. Michigan’s third grade reading proficiency level is an abysmal 62 percent. More than 60 percent of community college students require remediation classes because high school did not adequately prepare them for success in college.

Gov. Snyder has proposed a new “Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace” public education system to put Michigan students first. Achieving that goal will require devising a robust funding structure that allows for flexibility while maintaining accountability.

Two major goals of the draft are to create a framework to better utilize advanced teaching methods and create more consumers of education.

Key concepts

The draft contains five key concepts:

1. Remove District “ownership” of a student. A student will be allowed to take one course, multiple courses or the student’s entire bundled education package from any public education district in the Michigan. Local school districts will decide whether to participate in open enrollment.

2. Create online learning options with performance funding. A student will be allowed to access instruction from across the state using advancing technology. The district providing the online course will immediately receive public funding, based on performance measures.

3. Funding will truly follow the student. Fifteen other states are already using a new method for allocating funds. Currently, a school receives 90 percent of its state general education funding based on a student count on the first Wednesday in October. This proposal creates a dynamic system where the funding will actually follow the student to the public school district or districts that provide education to each student.

4. Framework for performance-based funding for all courses. We are setting the framework for the full implementation of computer-adaptive student growth and assessment tools that are on the horizon.

5. Early graduation scholarships. As an incentive for early graduation, $2,500 will be available for each semester a student graduates early.

The proposal has been criticized for not providing anything for economically disadvantaged students. I could not disagree more. Three key changes target students who are economically disadvantaged or who may have fallen behind:

1.Incentive for year-round schools. The evidence is overwhelming. “Summer loss” affects economically disadvantaged students at a far greater rate. By encouraging year-round schooling, this proposal has a direct impact on improving the education of economically disadvantaged students.

2. More online learning options. States like Florida and Minnesota with online learning options for students, have found students are using these options for credit recovery and to graduate on time in higher numbers than students trying to graduate early.

3.Funding following the student. Many times, economically disadvantaged students relocate at a fairly high rate as compared to other students. By allowing public funding to follow the student to the public school providing their education, resources can be coordinated to better help that student.

Any judgments on this proposal are premature and frequently come from organizations that want to protect the status quo at any costs. We welcome constructive proposals and suggestions that move Michigan public education to a performance-based funding approach rather than the current seat time funding. We will submit a final report to Gov. Snyder before Christmas.

The first draft has been posted for public review and comment at

Peter Ruddell is the principal drafter of the proposed Michigan Public Education Finance Act of 2013 and was the lead author and advocate of the Dr. Ron Davis Smokefree Air Law.