Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Return on Investment Article and Dr. Shubel's Words

Sound bites, scatter charts and interactive tables tell us the story of whether we are getting a "bang for our buck" in this article.  This study, conducted by the nonpartisan Center for American Progress located in Washington DC, compared school district achievement levels and then compared amounts of money spent per child to get that achievement.  An accouning for poverty in school districts is allegedly made, but it is not clear what that is.

 My bottom line is that education is receiving a good dose of scrutiny by experts outside of the field and this should be a good thing.  Rigorous research should help to bring the variables that we are dealing with in providing a public education to our children into focus.  We need to be cautious, however, in being snapped back and forth by these studies. 

We need bold leadership to take these outside sources and synthesize them into a coherent gameplan on the local, state and national level.  Our bold leader, Dr. Shubel, fearlessly brought this article with her to Friday's PTA meeting at Lakeside Elementary.  She admitted that EGRPS was not at the top of the return on investment scale, but that we were at the top of academic achievement.  She then discussed an initiative to provide academic support to struggling high school students.  "When I reviewed the plan to implement the math lab in the high school to help students who are struggling, I stated that it would not be funded unless it was staffed by master teachers.  We aren't going to provide the support unless I know it will be of the highest quality."  This lab has boosted the grades of students who have struggles with one lesson and students who struggle with whole classes.  She went on to say that that academic support "costs money."  My personal opinion is that it is money well spent.

Lucy Lafleur

Monday, January 17, 2011

Our New Legislator

Congratulations to our new State Representative, Lisa Posthumus Lyons.  Please find her contact information in the side bar.  We welcome working with Ms. Posthumus Lyons on public education related issues!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Some Education Food for Thought

Yesterday's article in the Grand Rapids Press, Michigan Schools--Lying to Parents? by Monica Scott was really interesting.

I also came across an interesting article called Your Child Left Behind. by Amanda Ripley in Atlantic December 2010.

The Grand Rapids Press article is interesting because it points out that under No Child Left Behind, a national test was initiated which compares a statistical sampling of 4th, 6th and 9th graders in each state with each other on a national test.  This is a comparing apples to apples approach.  As a parent who is not a professional in the education system, I had to dig around to find this information.  Not too many parent advocates even realized that this national test is out there, and now this article tells us that the MEAPs don't meet the more rigorous national standards. 

In the same vein, the Atlantic article is a statistical review of how US 15 year olds do on a standardized math test that is apparently given to 15 year olds around the world.  Again, I am pretty sure this is a statistical sampling.  Instead of telling us how US 15 year olds do in general, it is broken down by states.  Needless to say, even the state with the best public schools, Massachusetts, ranks in the second tier.

We need to be keeping these types of pieces of information in mind when we are advocating on behalf of schools.  There is alot of information out there for our esteemed professionals to sog through in order to make the education experience the best it can be for our students.  We need to demand excellence and we need to back that up with proper funding and support.


Did you ever wonder why our schools are so affected by State of Michigan budget?

Since the adoption of Proposal A in 1994, the State of Michigan provides most of the money to the school districts (between 85-90%). This State money is used for OPERATING EXPENSES, what most people think of as “school” expenses, such as teacher and employee salaries and benefits, books, all classroom supplies and supplies for all school-related activities. OPERATING EXPENSES also include such things as utilities, maintenance of buildings and the transportation of children. Preschool, food service and child care may fall under this category also. OPERATING EXPENSES are affected by budget shortfalls and any delays in passing the State’s budget.

Expenses that a district can raise money for are CAPITAL EXPENSES such as construction for new buildings, sports fields and any non-instructional tangible item (technological devices). Districts raise these funds with millages, sinking funds or fundraisers through organizations such as the Foundation or the PTSA.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Foundation Grant Definition

The Legislative Committee will focus on education of the parents in the EGRPS school district to arm each parent to advocate on behalf of public education. The first definition will be The Foundation Grant.

Foundation Grant

The foundation grant is the money given to a school district for each student in public school in the State of Michigan. The foundation grant was established under Proposal A of 1994 which took school funding out of local districts’ hands. The State of Michigan has funded schools since this time for the purpose of alleviating property taxes on homes and to decrease the disparity in funding between the richest and poorest school districts in the state.

The Michigan Revenue Conference

The Michigan Revenue Conference will take place January 14, 2011, in Lansing.   This is where the State balances its checkbook.  Although the money has already been spent, the government has to make sure that the taxes collected actually meet the budget as spent.  At this meeting, we will find out about actual tax collections for closing out this fiscal year and preparing for next fiscal year, including how much will be available per pupil for the 2011-12 school year.

The Michigan Senate has a fiscal agency of its own that has already estimated what the meeting will find.  This information was revealed in December, earlier than usual and at that time, it was estimated that although Michigan's General Fund (everything but K-12 education) is $1.8 billion in the hole, that the School Aid Fund is well funded.  This is good news, but we must remain vigilant that the School Aid Fund isn't raided to fund other parts of the budget.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Grassroots Meeting

The next Grassroots meeting will be at the KISD building which is at the corner of Leonard and the Beltline at 7pm on February 17, 2011.  This meeting will focus on the budget reconcilliation and the governor's proposed budget for 2012.  The new governor has promised to have the budget in by February 1 although new governors have until March 1.  This should be a very informative meeting.

We are watching the budget process with the new governor.

Both the Grand Rapids Press and the Lansing State Journal have had articles on the budget deficit and both have mentioned that the School Aid Fund is intact for next fiscal/school year even with over a billion dollar deficit.