Education Groups Want School Funding Vote

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A coalition of education groups says its proposal to guarantee annual funding increases equal to at least the inflation rate deserves a vote from Michigan lawmakers.

But it might not get one, meaning the proposal would be headed to voters on the November ballot instead.

Voter signatures and petitions circulated by the group were approved Monday by the Board of State Canvassers. The elections panel agreed with a state elections bureau report that said the coalition had collected an estimated 279,429 valid signatures in support of its effort, about 25,000 more than the minimum required.

That means the state Legislature has 40 days to vote on the proposed legislative initiative that would guarantee more money each year for public K-12 schools, community colleges and universities. If lawmakers vote against the measure or don't vote at all, the proposal would go to a statewide vote on the November ballot.

"We want a vote from the Legislature," said Al Short, a Michigan Education Association lobbyist and a member of the group called the K-16 Coalition for Michigan's Future. "If they don't schedule a vote, I feel they are shirking their responsibility."

Education leaders want some level of guaranteed funding after the past few years of tight state budgets. They say financial problems have led to slashed programs, laid-off teachers and tuition increases.

But some lawmakers feel the K-16 coalition proposal is irresponsible, too expensive and would threaten funding for other state services.