School Aid Act Background
On April 27, 2011, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder issued “A Special Message from Governor Rick Snyder: Education Reform.” The Message called for extensive changes, including:
Michigan’s education system must be reshaped so that all students learn at high levels and are fully prepared to enter the work force or attend college. They must think and act innovatively, demonstrate high performance, and meet the highest expectations. In addition, our students must leave high school with the skills to make sound financial decisions and demonstrate a basic understanding of personal finance.
The Special Message was followed by the enactment of several pieces of legislation amending Michigan Revised School Code and other education laws, including:
- Expanding the number of authorized cyber schools.
- Lifting the cap on charter schools and schools of excellence.
- Reforming Michigan’s teacher tenure act.
- Eliminating “last in/first out” policies.
In addition, the Governor’s Office has drafted significant additional education reform legislation including bills to:
- Expand online learning and blended learning.
- Authorize new forms of schools including international schools and advanced learning academies with selective enrollments.
- Create a new structure to address academically failing schools, the Education Achievement Authority.
- Authorize residential public schools for special populations, including a military/public safety academy.
- Use adjunct instructors from university and college faculties and from business and professional leaders.
- Allow redeployment of unused public school buildings for charter and other schools.
These Revised School Code proposals, however, have not addressed significant required changes in the law relating to school finance – the School Aid Act of 1979.
The State School Aid Act of 1979 is severely out of date and prohibits the effective implementation of many of the new education concepts. A proposed new Michigan Education Finance Act would replace the current “membership” and school district- centric model with education financing based on a more modern vision of public education, including the following from Governor Snyder’s Education Message:
- Michigan’s education system has revolved around a static approach to education delivery that can be at odds with individual learning styles.
- I am proposing a new —Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace public school learning model.
- Performance-based funding rather than seat time requirements.
- Michigan’s state foundation allowance should not be exclusively tied to the school district a child attends. Instead, funding needs to follow the student.
- Eliminate barriers to true choice in education and give parents and students the flexibility to employ education programming that ensures their future success.
The Work Plan being developed for the Project includes the following:
- The Oxford Foundation will act as fiscal agent for the Executive Office to administer the Project. The Oxford Foundation was established in 1991 by the then-Governor to assist the state in “lessening the burdens of government.” It is a 501(c)(3) organization and is registered with the Attorney General.
- Bill Rustem of the Governor’s staff will coordinate the project.
- Retained lawyers will undertake the initial legislative drafting. They will work with the professional drafters in the Legislative Service Bureau (“LSB”).
- An initial meeting of education interest groups will be held July 17 in the Governor’s Office. The purpose of the meeting is to outline the process, seek involvement of interested groups and answer questions.
- A statewide conference is contemplated at the end of the Project to involve stakeholders, including the Superintendent of Public Instruction, legislators, legislative staffs, school districts, charter schools, universities, teacher unions, etc.
- Richard McLellan will assist the Executive Office and the drafters on a pro bono basis.
The Project is designed to propose a Michigan education funding law to replace the 1979 School Aid Act with a modern education financing law that reflects the present structure of Michigan’s public school system and allows for future changes reflecting the Governor’s vision for public education.