School funding data: Step One

In a recent Mining Journal interview, Gov. Rick Snyder said Michigan should expand Career and Technical Education opportunities, such as computer-aided design, engineering and welding in Michigan’s public schools. Without question, these skills open a world of potential career options for our students, including those not bound for a four-year college.

But what would it cost to provide Career and Technical Education to all Michigan students, regardless of their location, income, learning challenges or other circumstances?

The School Finance Research Collaborative is seeking answers to that question, and what it costs to provide a high-equality education to all Michigan public school students, regardless of their career paths. I’m proud to serve on the Collaborative, a diverse and bipartisan group of business leaders and education experts from Metro Detroit to the U.P. who agree Michigan’s school finance system is way overdue for an overhaul.

The Collaborative is supporting a school funding adequacy study using multiple methodologies that will provide the best possible information on what it truly costs to educate all Michigan public school students. The study, being conducted by top industry experts, is creating 20 panels among 240 Michigan educators including teachers, teacher consultants, principals, superintendents, special education directors and specialists.

This research includes a special panel on Career and Technical Education, which will provide the best possible data on what it costs to provide this opportunity to all students.

Our work also includes a special panel on charter schools, as well as panels on poverty, preschool, districts of varying sizes and geographically isolated districts.

Additional panels focus on special needs students including those with learning challenges, English Language Learners and at-risk students.

Thanks to the collaborative, Michigan is one of more than 30 states to pursue school funding adequacy studies as Step One toward any meaningful education reforms.

Most of those states have used multiple methodologies to determine the true cost of educating public school students. Some states have conducted multiple adequacy studies to ensure they have the best school funding data at their fingertips.

With this data in hand, we will take a first step toward providing Career and Technical Education and other cutting-edge opportunities to all students while continuing Michigan’s economic comeback.

Dr. Brian Cherry is a professor of Political Science at Northern Michigan University.

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