Legislature Passes School Funding Bill

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Michigan schools finally may be in line to get a slice of the extra federal money set aside for the state this summer through a distribution plan approved Wednesday by the state Senate.
The plan that should soon be headed to Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm would give Michigan's highest-funded school districts an additional $111 per student this academic year. Michigan's lowest-funded districts would get $222 more per student, with districts in the middle of those two extremes getting money based on a sliding scale.
The money would help at least temporarily erase some previous funding cuts that have hit Michigan schools as the state has struggled with budget problems in recent years.
The proposal passed in the Republican-led Senate on Wednesday by a 35-1 vote is a second attempt at distributing roughly $246 million in federal money awarded to Michigan schools earlier this year. Granholm vetoed a portion of a previous distribution plan in October, saying it violated federal rules.
The Democratic-led House last month approved a school funding distribution plan similar to the one approved by the Senate on Wednesday. The revised bill is expected to be sent to Granholm before the Legislature's so-called lame duck session comes to an end, likely this week.
Granholm is expected to sign the bill once it gets to her desk, spokeswoman Liz Boyd said.
"We are grateful the Legislature finally acted to correct the formula error and we will move quickly to get this needed funding to school districts," Boyd said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
The bill also makes other school spending adjustments, some of which are meant to keep Michigan in compliance with rules for receiving federal cash. The overall amount of the adjustments on a per-student basis vary by district.
The Senate on Wednesday approved a separate bill by a 21-14 vote that would add requirements for evaluating teachers and administrators in Michigan schools. At least 45 percent of total value of an annual evaluation would be based on student growth in academic achievement, and the evaluation would tie into teacher tenure.
The bill now goes to the House, where supporters will be allowed to try and push for passage as early as Thursday.
Also Wednesday, the House approved a bill that could allow the Detroit Institute of Arts or similar organizations to ask taxpayers for more money through property taxes. The Senate already has approved the bill so it should soon be headed to Granholm for her signature.
The property taxes would have to be approved by voters in the affected region to take effect. Art institute authorities could ask for up to 0.2 mills.
A similar bill already has been approved to assist the Detroit Zoo.
Michigan lawmakers are considering dozens of topics before their 2009-10 session ends.
Lawmakers might also consider bills related to fireworks sales, insurance coverage for autism treatments and other issues before adjourning for the year. None of those issues are guaranteed to come up for votes, however.


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