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Resource Issues Face KPS
Linda Mah
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Resource Issues Face KPS

Bond, School Finance Study Will Impact District

By Dr. Michael Rice

There are two major resource issues for Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS) students, staff, and community in 2018: a bond proposal on the May 8 ballot and a new state school financial adequacy study.

KPS Bond Proposal. On Jan. 25, the Kalamazoo Public Schools Board of Education approved the placement of a $96.7 million bond referendum on the May 8 ballot. If approved, the bond would permit the replacement of roofs, boilers, windows, doors, flooring, and other capital items at the end of their useful lives. It would fund more secure entrances in many schools in the district. It would fund the replacement of Edison Environmental Science Academy, the oldest school in continuous use in the district, constructed in 1923. It would fund new buses and computers. It would fund a new districtwide kitchen to help improve the quality of meals in the district for students, and a small but significant addition onto Phoenix High School.

Districts across the state often use bonds to fund major building and other capital items. KPS voters have consistently approved bonds over a period of years to help keep district buildings in good shape for students, staff, and community.

A New State Financial Adequacy Study. The School Finance Research Collaborative (SFRC) is a statewide coalition of business people and educators who believe that the school finance system in Michigan is outdated and needs to be replaced. In the spring, the SFRC contracted with the two top school financial adequacy firms in the country — Augenblich, Palaich, and Associates and Picus, Odden, and Associates — to produce a study on Michigan school finance and to recommend the strongest possible state school finance system.

In mid-January, the resultant study was published and disseminated. The study recommends the following:

· Base funding of $9,590 per student in state, local, and federal funding for all students.

· An additional 35 percent beyond base funding — another $3,356 — for every poor student.

· Additional funds for English language learners based on the English language level of the individual student. For English language learners with very little English, the additional funding would be 70 percent more, or $6,713 per student. For those with somewhat greater English, the added funding would be 50 percent more, or $4,795 per student. For those with the ability to be mainstreamed in general education classrooms but who still require some continued support, the extra funding would be 35 percent more, or $3,356 per student.

· Additional funds for special needs students. These additional funds would be 70 percent more, or $6,713 for each child with a mild handicap or a disability, and 115 percent more, or $11,028 for each child with a moderate challenge. Children with severe special needs would have the added costs of their education fully reimbursed by the state under this study’s recommendations. · Pre-kindergarten for threeand four-year olds funded at $14,155 per full day student. Currently, pre-kindergarten is funded by the state at $3,625 for every half day, or $7,250 for full day.

· Additional funding of 4 percent, or $380, for each geographically isolated student. This is not an issue for KPS and other urban districts, but is an issue for districts in the Upper Peninsula.

· Transportation funding at $973 per transported student.

· In addition to the above recommendations, the report suggests added study in the following areas: capital needs of local school districts, who receive no funding from the state for such needs; more precise transportation needs, costs, and appropriate funding; and the costs of high-needs poverty students.

It has been an honor and pleasure to serve on the School Finance Research Collaborative Steering and Technical Committee and to play a very small role in making this new study a reality. I encourage you to review the study at the SFRC website and to share your thoughts with your locally elected state officials, whose responsibility it is each year to craft and approve a state budget that appropriately funds pre-K-12 school children across Michigan.

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