Michigan Schools’ Special Needs Funding Needs Gradual Increase

New report sheds light on a serious problem hindering our students’ ability to have equal opportunities at school and our state’s ability to achieve its full economic might: the lack of justice and equity in funding schools .

Equal funding is when each school district receives the same amount of funding per student. Equitable funding is when every student has the support they need to be successful.

A new report from The Education Trust-Midwest, “Funding Michigan Schools: Crisis and Opportunity”, Shows how our State has largely failed in the challenge of equity. When it comes to ensuring our schools have the funding they need to ensure that all students receive the services they need, we are in the bottom five in the country.

Dave meador

It makes sense that some students need more than others to have the same access to opportunities. Students from low-income families and those learning English often need more to catch up with their peers. The same goes for students living in sparsely populated rural districts, where unique structural challenges exist. Likewise, additional dollars are needed to ensure that students with disabilities have equal access to opportunities.

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The impact of Michigan’s failure to support students on a needs basis affects a student’s chances of preparing for post-secondary education and succeeding in employment. Cumulatively, the impact on our state’s talent pool is catastrophic and one of the main reasons many employers today say they can’t find workers to fill available jobs – doing fair funding. of schools a business problem and an economic development problem.

I understand this problem personally. As I fought for my daughter, who has the autism spectrum, to obtain evidence-based services required by federal law, we were often told that the law is an unfunded tenure. This is one of the main reasons why in some years only 50% of Michigan students with an IEP left high school with a diploma, compared to 90% in other states.

As the report states, despite federal and state laws requiring specific services for students with disabilities, Michigan’s funding is “grossly inequitable and grossly insufficient.”

The state provides partial refunds only to districts for their fees for students with disabilities – up to 75% of the fees, but not more than 28.6% for staff costs. Michigan is one of the seven states which is based on a reimbursement system to finance special education.

These partial repayments are often part of, and not, the state foundation allowance. The way Michigan funds its schools often limits how well districts are able to make up the difference between the cost of providing special education services and the funding available to them.

The result: A study by Michigan State University found that districts use, on average, more than $ 500 per student from general education funds. In some districts, this amount can be as high as $ 1,000 per student. This creates serious problems for districts to meet the needs of special education students and general education students alike.

Similar challenges are seen in school districts with high numbers of low-income students or particularly low real estate assets. A student with limited access to books, extracurricular activities, or rigorous instruction, such as Advanced Placement classes, does not have the same chances of success as a relatively affluent student from a wealthy neighborhood.

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As a parent, citizen, and business leader, I understand that Michigan’s school funding challenges will have a lasting impact on our students, our economy, and our future prosperity.

In Michigan’s education system, every child should have access to a good education, regardless of their zip code, English speaking ability, family income, or ability. Keeping that promise requires school funding that meets the needs of every student. It will advance our children and our state.

Dave Meador is Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of DTE Energy Co. and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Autism Alliance of Michigan.