Traverse City Record-Eagle

Michigan

June 11, 2014

Lawmakers on track to up funding, nix standardized test change

LANSING (AP) — Michigan will spend 4 percent more next year on public schools and pause plans to replace its standardized test with one being developed by a group of states, under a K-12 budget headed toward final approval this week.

A House-Senate conference committee voted 4-1 Tuesday in favor of the nearly $13.9 billion spending plan, which boosts the state’s per-pupil funding to districts by at least $50 — less than the $83 minimum increase Gov. Rick Snyder proposed. The lowest-funded districts will get $175 more — higher than the $111 hike in the Republican governor’s plan — with the minimum aid rising from $7,076 to $7,251.

Districts also can qualify for more money by meeting “best practices” and get up to $100 more per student if standardized tests scores improve in math, reading or on high school assessments. The funding gap among districts will be $848 per student next fiscal year, down from a disparity of $2,300 when the school finance system was revamped 20 years ago.

Legislators balked at the state Education Department’s plan to replace the nearly 45-year-old Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) next school year with exams developed by the Smarter Balanced consortium, a group of states — including Michigan — adopting national Common Core standards that spell out what math and English skills students should have at each grade. Lawmakers have expressed concerns about schools’ readiness to give the tests on computers, the length of the exams, their complexity and the process by which state officials decided to go with Smarter Balanced.

State officials have said it is too late to change direction and have warned that Michigan’s waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law may be jeopardized. The bill approved Tuesday directs the state to develop a new MEAP to be given next spring and to seek a waiver or amendment to its existing waiver from the federal law.

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