TRAVERSE CITY — Local school district leaders are optimistic about the K-12 budget that awaits final approval in the state legislature, but they’re concerned about bringing the Michigan Educational Assessment Program back as the standardized test.
A House-Senate conference committee voted in favor of a plan that would increase per-pupil funding to districts across the state by at least $50. The lowest-funded districts could receive $175 per-pupil, an increase from $7,076 to $7,251.
Nine of the 16 school districts in the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District are base-funded, TBAISD Superintendent Mike Hill said.
“So if they can qualify for the $175, that’s something that we’re very happy with,” Hill said.
The committee also included a 4-percent increase in state-supported funding for ISDs, Hill said.
“We’re being asked as intermediate school districts to take on more and more in terms of collaborative services, and that is a positive that the conference committee recommended a slight increase in that line item,” Hill said.
Traverse City Area Public Schools Superintendent Stephen Cousins cautioned the budget is not a done deal, and likely will face opposition from higher-funded districts across the state.
But the proposed increase does represent a movement toward equity, Cousins said.
“It looks good to us. It’s probably the best budget that’s been proposed for schools in about eight years,” he said.
The proposal is within TCAPS’ officials projections for their own budget. Cousins said TCAPS should have a balanced budget next year if the committee’s recommendations pass.
Kalkaska Public Schools also are a base-funded district. Superintendent Lee Sandy credited state Sen. Howard Walker for advocating for low-funded schools.
“Senator Walker went to bat for us, and we appreciate it,” he said.
Sandy is concerned about delaying the Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced testing and bringing the MEAP back as the standardized test.