Public Education Finance Act

Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace

Editorial: Education reform builds momentum

State has chance to reshape public schools

LSJ.com

For much of the past decade, some person or group at the Capitol has been pressing the cause for school finance reform.

It’s been clear for some time that the 1990s Proposal A package voters OK’d to reform education funding is not an enduring solution. Funding is more evenly distributed among school districts with disparate income. But there are shortcomings, such as the wildly differing ability of local districts to address their long-term building costs.

The LSJ Editorial Board has long encouraged deep, broad look at reforms, using this space to call for a legislative special session on school finance reform several times during Jennifer Granholm’s tenure as governor.

Now, Gov. Rick Snyder faces with a dual problem. Rapidly advancing technology has the potential to reshape the learning process, even as the state still wrestles with the shortcomings of Proposal A. Addressing one without the other would be foolish.

Just months into his governorship, Snyder offered a special message on education to the Legislature, calling for K-12 programs that promote learning “any time, any place, any way, any pace.” Translation: To achieve its full potential, Michigan must innovate a public education program that can be tailor-made for each student’s learning needs and paid for efficiently.

It’s a big bite from the apple. To get it done, the governor turned to Richard McLellan, a Lansing attorney with extraordinary experience in public policy, to lead the Michigan Education Finance Project. McLellan, working with a small team, has been meeting with state education officials and others to consider options. A draft bill, the subject of today’s Greater Lansing Outlook, is at www.pefaproject.wordpress.com. Also there are position statements from a long list of interested groups.

The objective is formal legislation to create a better approach to public education. There’s little doubt the final bill will provoke debate over sweeping changes. The breadth will be staggering to many. It is not too soon to get informed.

Once again, the suggestion of a special legislative session seems appropriate. Such a session would allow both lawmakers and the public to focus fully on the issues. There is growing momentum to address both the weaknesses in the traditional school structure and the way Michigan pays for education. Both must be done carefully and effectively. Let’s not waste the opportunity.

An LSJ editorial

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