The Michigan Legislature passed so many bills in so little time before rushing off to its summer recess earlier this month that journalists and, we suspect, some legislators as well, could barely keep track of what was going on. After the dust cleared, it became apparent legislators had pushed through some far-reaching actions — some positive, some negative — affecting public schools in Michigan. Here are a few.
n Narrowing the funding gap. The $13.9 billion school aid package provided K-12 schools a 4 percent increase in funding, but not everyone is getting the same boost. All districts will receive at least a $50 increase in per-pupil funding, but lower-funded districts will get as much as $175 more than last year. ... Eliminating the wide gap in funding between school districts was supposed to be addressed by Proposal A ... 1994, but two decades later, disparities still persist. The new school aid bill narrows the gap between the top and bottom districts from $973 to $848 per student, a step in the right direction.
n Weakening the Michigan Merit Curriculum. Score one for supporters of weaker graduation standards in Michigan. The rigorous Michigan Merit Curriculum has been under fire ever since it was adopted eight years ago from critics who think our state’s students aren’t capable of handling challenging classes. Bills passed this month would let students substitute career training courses such as welding and agricultural science for academic courses such as algebra 2 and physics. They also cut the foreign language requirement from two classes to one, and allow it to be taken before high school.
The purpose of the Michigan Merit Curriculum was to give every student an education that prepares him or her to go to college, if that’s the course they want to pursue, or a job in the modern knowledge-based economy. The latest legislation, if it’s signed into law, would deprive many students of those opportunities. This retreat from educational rigor would be a sad development for Michigan, and if Gov. Rick Snyder is serious about raising educational standards, he should veto this legislation.