Wednesday, May 12, 2010

State of Michigan Board of Education's Bipartisan Recommendations for Education

State Board of Education Unanimously Adopts Balanced, Bi-Partisan Plan to Reform and Finance State's Education System
Contact: Martin Ackley, Director of Communications 517.241.4395

From the Michigan Department of Education website
May 11, 2010

LANSING - The State Board of Education unanimously adopted today a balanced and bi-partisan plan to reform, restructure and finance Michigan's education system, from early childhood education to post-secondary.

The State Board now will present the plan to the state Legislature, in accordance with the Board's state Constitutional responsibility to advise the state Legislature on the financial requirements for Michigan education and higher education.

"This is a comprehensive, balanced plan that is right for Michigan," said State Board Vice President John C. Austin, who led the development of the plan. "Education is the key investment for this state. Starting at birth, education is essential for our citizens and our state's economy."


The plan, Recommendations to Better Support Michigan's Education System: Revenues, Reforms and Restructuring, is a balance of broad education restructuring initiatives, as well as continued cost reductions and revenue increases.

State Board President Kathleen N. Straus stressed the urgency in which these reforms must be implemented. 
"We really have an emergency in Michigan," Straus said. "Many school districts have done what we've asked them to do - share services, share superintendents, and cut, cut, cut their budgets. Yet they're rewarded by getting more cuts in their state funding. This is destroying Michigan's education system."

 Straus stressed that public education is essential for the revival of Michigan's economy and its future.

 State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan said that he fully endorses the State Board plan. "This is a landmark plan," Flanagan said. "What makes it unique is that it's not pie-in-the-sky; it's a very balanced approach that can work."

The plan includes, among other things:

  1. Universal preschool for all four-year-olds;
  2. Mandated kindergarten for all children;
  3. Keep the K-12 funding levels prior to the fiscal year 2010 cuts;
  4. Strongly encourage districts to stop reducing the school year below 180 days;
  5. Encourage schools to continue to innovate and explore innovations such as year-round schooling, and    alternative calendars that increase learning time and improve learning retention;
  6. Yearly progress requirements for schools and districts;
  7. Synch the state budget cycle with the budget cycle of local school districts, and a guarantee from the state that there be no mid-year pro-rated cuts in state funding;
  8. Incentives to provide a post-secondary education opportunity for every child;
  9. Urging local school districts to provide more education choices for their students by opening their own charter schools;
  10. Create strong incentives for school districts to consolidate services, and if progress is not made, establish a district consolidation process
  11. Move newly-hired public school employees to a defined contribution pension system;
  12. Reform the health care benefit structures for school employees, consistent with the direction of reforms for all public employees;
  13. Maximize the capture of an Internet Sales and Use Tax for Michigan;
  14. Lower the state sales tax, and extend it to services;
  15. Tax private pensions;
  16. Reduce targeted tax credits and so-call tax loopholes; and
  17. Implement a graduated income tax, taxing wealthier citizens at a higher rate, while reducing income tax rates for most citizens.

The State Board's plan was a culmination of working together in a bi-partisan manner that focused on the overall need to accomplish real change.

"This was an exercise in the way government should work," said State Board member Casandra Ulbrich. "I hope the Legislature can take a step back and take a lesson in how to work together.

"My only fear is that the Legislature will look at this plan and pull out only the things they like and ignore those they don't," Ulbrich added. "I hope they look at it in its entirety."

State Board member Carolyn Curtin confirmed the bi-partisan consensus process of the development of the plan. "We all have differences of opinion," she said. "Yet we were able to talk about it and get it to a place where we all could support it."