Michigan schools need to spend more money helping students with special needs. That’s the finding of a study commissioned by the state legislature in 2015. The findings were presented to the Board of Education Tuesday, the same day the board discussed a statewide initiative to make Michigan a Top 10 performing state within the next 10 years.
John Austin is the president of the State Board of Education. He says the Legislature and governor need to step up to make changes in the school financial system.
“I’m tired of us making studies,” he said. “We have to begin to put our money where our mouth is as a state and rebuild our commitment to great public education, as the pathway to opportunity for all our young people. And we’re not there, and we need to get there.”
According to the study, the gap between the services students need and what they are getting has grown each year from 2009 to 2014. But Michigan Superintendent Brian Whiston says that inequity is still better than it was before Proposal A – the 1994 school funding reform package.
“But we have to understand that students of poverty, students of ELL, students of special needs costs more to educate,” he said. “So districts, you know that have a large base of those populations do need additional funding. So I’m not one who says every school should get – throw out a number 9,000 – it ought to be needs based.”
Austin agrees. He says education funding cannot be a one size fits all solution.
“I mean that’s the big takeaway that no one’s arguing from this study,” he said. “That we need to spend more money where kids have greater needs and close those opportunity gaps.”
The study also found that the poorest school districts in the state have the most students that require special services.