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A new report from the Michigan League For Public Policy released on Thursday, Aug. 23, showed that, counting the upcoming 2019 fiscal year, nearly $2 billion from the school aid fund has been diverted to universities since 2009, and approximately $2.5 billion has been diverted to community colleges. Three of the past five state budgets have funded community college operations entirely from the School Aid Fund, and the most recent budget more than doubles the SAF dollars going to universities, accounting for a third of their funding.

The report argues 2012 tax shifts on businesses, the legacy business tax credit, repeal of personal property tax, and other tax cuts and exemptions have decreased general fund revenues, so universities and community colleges cannot get adequate funding from there.

The report calls for increasing revenue sources for the general funding so community college and universities can go back to getting funding from there, and the School Aid Fund can go back to being exclusively for K-12 schools. It also recommends the returned funding to the School Aid Fund be used to increase per-pupil funding, fully fund at-risk student aid programs, increase early literacy funding, expand preschool funding and fully fund the Early On program that identifies and assists young children with developmental delays.

“Our K-12 schools and higher learning institutions depend on each other and competing for the same dollars hampers them both,” said Gilda Jacobs, president of the Michigan League For Public Policy.

“Universities and community colleges need well-prepared high school graduates, and K-12 schools depend on universities and community colleges to produce skilled workers—including K-12 teachers and school staff—who contribute to the tax base, create jobs and keep communities strong. Instead of prioritizing who gets funding, legislators should be funding all of the state’s top priorities, and that requires revenue and investment, not tax cuts.”

Per-pupil funding for K-12 schools has increased in recent years, and schools are getting a $120-240 per pupil increase this year. Per-pupil funding is between $7,781-$8,460 for the 2018-19 school year.

However, school leaders still say they are struggling to provide the services they want to provide, and having the School Aid Fund going entirely to K-12 would greatly help. Nonpartisan groups like the Michigan School Finance Research Collaborative, which is made up of education experts, school officials, business leaders, and groups like the Michigan League for Public Policy, have recommended a base allowance of $9,590 per pupil, with additional funding weighted by the number of students in poverty, the number of English language learners, district size and geographic isolation up to a maximum of $11,482. Aug 26, 2018 – Holland Sentinel

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