One More Time on Equity in School Funding

You know from many of my previous postings on this site as well as my personal blog (Rebel 6 Ramblings) that our state legislature and governor continue to perpetuate a very inequitable system of providing classroom funding for Michigan’s public schools. We know, especially here at Godfrey-Lee where a very dedicated teaching staff provides effective educational services for a large percentage of students struggling with the English language (EL) or dealing with the impacts of poverty in their lives, that our state funding does not provide adequate access to equitable programs and supports to ensure every student has a chance for high-level academic success. Our legislature knows it as well but turns a blind eye in favor of providing tax cuts for businesses or avoiding personal tax increases in a state where we just learned achievement growth is lowest in the nation and all around us we see our infrastructure crumbling.



Meanwhile, there are school districts throughout Kent County and Michigan financially capable of adding new and innovative programs designed to prepare their students, many of which come from affluent families and communities, for college and 21st century careers. A sizeable number of those districts which not only receive more classroom funding, do not have to spend nearly as much on interventions and supports designed to close the learning gaps of students who fell behind because of poverty, EL or other obstacles. They are free to spend greater numbers of dollars on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), robotics, arts, and a whole host of higher level learning and dual college programs that continue to widen the opportunity gap for kids across Kent County and Michigan.

Better funding for schools leads to better long-term outcomes for students, a careful study concludes. ~ Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

It’s not just the inequity of classroom funding but also our inequitable system of funding capital improvements. Godfrey-Lee has one of the lowest state-equalized-evaluations (SEV) per student in Michigan primarily due to our lack of industrial or large commercial properties as well as lower assessments on residential property. What this means is that when considering bonding for improvements, upgrades, or replacement of our educational facilities to support 21st century learning, including the addition of sorely-needed air conditioning for extended year programs or consideration of a balanced-calendar, the amount of funding available from local property taxes to pay for bonds does not come close to comparing with other area school districts.

School Districts with Lowest SEV per pupil (>1000 enrollment) County SEV Per Pupil in $
Carrollton Public Schools SAGINAW 31,253
Godfrey-Lee Public Schools KENT 47,927
Bendle Public Schools GENESEE 54,896
Hamtramck, School District of the City of WAYNE 56,799
Harper Woods, The School District of the City of WAYNE 60,846
Oak Park, School District of the City of OAKLAND 66,427
Hazel Park, School District of the City of OAKLAND 69,491
Westwood Heights Schools GENESEE 71,002
Dearborn Heights School District #7 WAYNE 71,174
Vandercook Lake Public Schools JACKSON 73,213
Oakridge Public Schools MUSKEGON 76,762
Mt. Morris Consolidated Schools GENESEE 77,657
School Districts with Highest SEV per pupil (>1000 enrollment) County SEV Per Pupil in $
Elk Rapids Schools ANTRIM 702,932
Charlevoix Public Schools CHARLEVOIX 701,471
Roscommon Area Public Schools ROSCOMMON 643,255
Bloomfield Hills Schools OAKLAND 599,495
Birmingham Public Schools OAKLAND 549,964
Houghton Lake Community Schools ROSCOMMON 540,979
Ludington Area School District MASON 499,552
Benzie County Central Schools BENZIE 494,790
Oscoda Area Schools IOSCO 479,544
Public Schools of Petoskey EMMET 477,500
Pontiac City School District OAKLAND 473,048
Royal Oak Schools OAKLAND 454,228

The chart above lists the twelve districts with the lowest SEV per pupil (top) and the twelve districts with the highest SEV per pupil (bottom). In both cases, only districts with 1,000 or more enrolled students are included.  Source: Michigan Bulletin 1014 for 2015-16 school year available at

One more example of the inequity in local school bonding capacity is to make a quick comparison between our district and Rockford Public Schools using total debt millage figures from 2016 (obtained from

District SEV Per Pupil Debt Millage Rate $$ Per Pupil
Godfrey-Lee $47,927 12.59 $603.40
Rockford $198,680 8.5 $1,688.78

So in short, Godfrey-Lee would have to increase our debt millage nearly three times as much to generate the same number of dollars per pupil, something that even if possible would be a substantial burden on home and small business owners in our district.

Instructional and Operating Funds

I’ve laid out the problem in general terms but let’s take a closer look at how inequitable our Michigan public school funding system really is.

First of all, it’s important to know the sources of funding we receive to operate our school district and provide classrooms and highly-qualified teachers for our students:

  • Foundation allowance: this is the largest portion of our funding and it comes from a combination of local property taxes combined with an appropriation by our state legislature. Our current foundation allowance is $7,511 per student which is the minimum appropriated by the state. The chart below shows our annual foundation allowance for each year going back to 1995 when voters through “Proposal A” put the full responsibility for school funding on our state legislature.

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 5.16.30 PM

The graph above illustrates the growing gap between the real $$ provided through the foundation allowance and the value when adjusted for inflation, or increasing costs, since 1995. It also shows the inconsistency in the politically motivated appropriations process where school districts are left wondering if they will have less funding or more each year. The green line at the bottom illustrates how the value of per pupil school funding has steadily declined despite the claim by Lansing politicians that they have increased funding for K-12 education (we now call that “fake news”). The following graph from the House Fiscal Agency shows the same gap across the state as nominal dollars fail to keep up with inflation:


  • Districts receive other state funding through grants, the largest being at-risk (31A) and special education funding. These and other smaller grants are restricted to programs and services that support specific students. For example, at-risk funding can only be used for qualifying students to help provide supports in core subject areas (primarily math and reading). These are important funds but they cannot be broadly used to operate the district, school or classroom other than instructional supports to the student. As one example, these funds cannot be used to pay the light or other utility bills necessary to provide a suitable classroom for that student. They also cannot be used to maintain or repair buildings or purchase up-to-date lab equipment for science or technology courses.
  • Districts receive federal funding that varies depending on socio-economic, demographic, or special needs of students. These are what are referred to as “Title” funds and are targeted towards specific students. They have many of the same restrictions, or often even greater restrictions, as the state funds indicated above. Food service funds for providing free or reduced price breakfast and lunch programs based on federal poverty indicators are a separate category.
  • Bonds and what we call “sinking funds” are voter-approved local funds that depend on the number of “mils” approved by voters and the value of property within the district. These cannot be used for any school or classroom operations, instructional materials, salaries or benefits and are strictly limited to capital improvements, maintenance or repair of facilities, and the purchase of technology. I wrote above about the limitations in our district to this type of funding due to having the second lowest per-pupil property valuation (SEV) in the state. This means a one-mil bond or sinking fund approved by the voters would generate 1 dollar for every $1,000 of property value. In our district, using the chart above, it would generate approximately $47 per pupil while in Elk Rapids, it would generate $702 per pupil, approximately fifteen times as much for each mil.

For comparison of the inequity in combined local, state and federal revenues (not including bonds or sinking funds), I’ve created the following two tables. In the first table, using 2015-16 financial data from the Michigan Bulletin 1014, I compare Godfrey-Lee with districts in Kent County that receive more revenue per pupil. Also provided is the rank for per-pupil funding in comparison to all districts and charter schools in Michigan.

School District Total Revenue Per Pupil State Rank
Grand Rapids 11,788 93
Godwin Heights 11,296 113
Northview 10,860 146
Forest Hills 10,539 183
Kent City 10,493 190
Kentwood 10,361 207
Kelloggsville 10,323 212
Wyoming 10,318 214
Godfrey-Lee 10,208 243

As you can see, the difference per pupil between Godfrey-Lee and the other districts ranges from a low of $110 to a high of $1,580. To be fair, some of the local funds may include grants from foundations or businesses for specific school improvement projects. Nonetheless, every dollar per pupil difference, particularly between districts with higher and lower levels of at-risk and EL students, adds to the inequity of opportunity.

One additional comparison that is important more so than comparing districts within Kent County, is to look at our per-pupil funding compared to the four Oakland County school districts listed as having some of the highest property values in Michigan from the table above.

School District Total Revenue Per Pupil State Rank
Pontiac 17,846 30
Bloomfield Hills 15,591 38
Birmingham 14,558 44
Royal Oak 11,188 118

In this comparison, Godfrey-Lee received anywhere from $980 to $7,638 per student for the 2015-16 school year. Bloomfield and Birmingham, both considered home to very affluent families, averaged $4,866 more per pupil than Godfrey-Lee, probably one of the greatest indicators of how inequitable Michigan’s school funding system is.

Will Equity Improve?

While it may and has improved, equality let alone equity is unlikely to be achieved within my lifetime. K-12 funding is totally dependent on the political process and every two years, we have a new cast of characters in Lansing with their own personal and party agendas. Schools have not been a substantial part of that agenda except to enact policies that make it more difficult to operate. But just for kicks, let’s compare revenue over the years for Godfrey-Lee and Bloomfield Hills just comparing the major source of funding — the foundation allowance — since 2011-12.

School District School Year 2011-12 Foundation School Year 2016-17 Foundation Ave. Annual Increase
Bloomfield Hills 11,854 12,064 42
Godfrey-Lee 7,004 7,511 101
Difference 4,850 4,553 59

From the figures in the above table, the difference in the average annual increase between the two districts is $59 per pupil. In other words, Godfrey-Lee has gained ground on Bloomfield Hills at the rate of $59 per year since 2011-12. As of 2016-17, assuming a similar rate of annual increases (which may or may not occur at the whim of the legislature and governor), which by the way don’t even keep up with inflation, it will take 77 more years before both districts are receiving an equal foundation allowance (and equal, by the way, is not equitable). So we’re talking the year 2094, maybe. Few if any of us other than the youngest kids will be around to find out.


As for equity itself, where equity is defined as the funding levels necessary to provide the supports for each student, regardless of their circumstances such as poverty, zip code, language barriers, special needs, etc., so that each has an equitable opportunity to pursue the same educational outcomes, it’s becoming more and more unlikely that will ever happen. This past June, a report was issued at the request of the state legislature to determine what it costs to educate a child in Michigan. Titled the “Michigan Education Finance Study” conducted by the firm of Augenblick, Palaich and Associates, the study, although incomplete because it did not factor in special education costs, concluded the following regarding per pupil funding:

  • Districts that receive the base foundation allowance should receive an immediate increase to $8,667 (compared to the $7,511 currently received by Godfrey-Lee) to provide an adequate education for all students
  • Funding for at-risk students should be increased by 30%
  • Funding for ELL students should be increased by 40%

If our legislature had the moral will to fund K-12 public education at an adequate and equitable level, these recommendations would increase revenues for students in our district by an additional $5,172 per pupil providing more equal (not equitable) funding when compared for instance to Bloomfield Hills. Total increased costs for the state under this recommendation would be around $4 billion, which, while it seems high, compares favorably with the fact that our current statewide taxation versus personal wealth gap is in the neighborhood of $10 billion. So it’s doable.


This is my last opportunity as a K-12 superintendent to rail against the inequitable public school funding system in Michigan and it’s continuing negative impact on school districts like ours. Equitable funding for schools that serve majority populations of low income and EL students is critical not only for those children and their communities, but for Michigan itself as we seek not only to be a Top 10 in 10 education state, but one that provides a highly educated citizenry to drive our economy and general welfare. In short, school districts like Godfrey-Lee with adequate and equitable funding can help meet these goals as they:

  • Compete with other districts for recruitment and retention of high quality educational leaders and teachers in every classroom.
  • Provide teachers and school administrators with greater opportunities for embedded professional learning and coaching.
  • Provide for lower class sizes, as in many of the affluent districts, that will help strengthen the teacher-student relationship and give greater attention to individual students who need it more.
  • Replace or significantly upgrade outdated school structures to provide more flexible learning spaces and a comfortable learning environment no matter what time of year it might be.
  • Provide greater access to college and career counselors who can work with families that may have never experienced college life.
  • Give greater access for students to STEM and high-level courses that are both challenging and engaging.
  • Provide a healthy and inspiring mix of electives and extra-curricular activities including the arts, technology, life-skills, athletics, service learning, and leadership development.
  • Give students more opportunities for field trips and travel that expand their awareness of different cultures, the workings of government, careers, and the environment.
  • Give students, their teachers, and their families a greater sense of worth, a feeling that they are valued just as much by our state as wealthier families in more affluent school districts, because our state legislature treats them as a priority through the appropriations process.

I probably could have a lot more to say on this, but over the past nearly nine years as superintendent, I’ve exhausted pretty much all there is to say. The ball is really in Lansing’s court and it remains to be seen if our district’s kids will ever be treated equitably.

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Strong Schools, Strong Communities – Update

This is a continuation of my previous post on the topic of the Kent ISD Regional Enhancement Millage that voters will be asked to decide on Tuesday, May 9.

Strong Schools, Strong Communities: Kent ISD Regional Enhancement Millage 2017

The Strong Schools, Strong Communities committee has posted a link to a website that will provide more details:–community/strong-schools-strong-communities/

Flyers in English and Spanish:







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2017-18 School Calendar

Kent County ISD, which includes 19 other school districts besides ours, requested and received approval to begin the school year prior to Labor Day. Many of you may recall that every school district in Michigan did so prior to 2008.

The reason for the waiver to begin prior to Labor Day is based on what our county believes is best for our students. There are a number of valid reasons for the change back to this earlier start date including alignment with local colleges that provide our students with early college and dual enrollment opportunities. We also believe that this is the beginning of a longer process of adopting a more balanced “year-round” calendar which would provide a shorter summer break and other breaks during the school year. One thing to remember, however, is that no matter how the calendar is structured, we are required by law to provide 180 days of school that include a minimum of 1,098 hours of scheduled instruction. This is true for all Michigan public and charter schools.

At the last Board of Education meeting, the Board approved a start date for students of Monday, August 21, 2017. We are currently in negotiations with our teachers and support staff as to the rest of the calendar, but I wanted you to have this date to be able to make plans for August. I can also tell you that school will end earlier in June than it has the past several years. I will get the full calendar out to you as soon as the new calendar is ready for Board ratification. I’m hoping that is as early as next week.

State law also requires the county to be on a consistent calendar for Thanksgiving, Winter and Spring breaks. Therefore, I can provide the following to you for any planning you might be doing over those holiday/vacation periods:

Thanksgiving Break:  Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, November 22 – 24, 2017

Christmas/New Year Break (Winter): Begins after school on Friday, December 22, 2017 and school resumes on Monday, January 8, 2018

Spring Break: Begins after school on Thursday, March 29, 2018 and school resumes on Monday, April 9, 2018

You may read or hear that other districts are starting later than us. That’s probably true as each district had different circumstances to consider for this coming year. Several already had contracts with their unions that included a calendar with a post-Labor Day start. Others have major construction issues going on in their districts that need more time this summer to be sure their schools are ready for students. The waiver from the state is good for three (3) years and it’s the intent of all districts to be on a similar county-wide calendar at some point during that period. Kent ISD KCTC, KTC, KIH and regional programs will begin the week of August 21.

Here are the links to a couple of local news reports about the early start decision. I do want to point out that they are not consistent with each other on some of the details regarding when different districts are starting, but they provide more rationale as to why this is a valid decision based on the needs of students.

Kent County students to begin next school year in August

Kent County schools’ summer break getting cut

Winter break is back, while summer is cut short for some West Michigan students

I also thought you might be interested in two graphs that illustrate the average temperatures in June and August for the Grand Rapids area.



Average Weather In June For Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA




Average Weather In August For Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA


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Godfrey-Lee Board Selects Superintendent Candidates for Interviews


On Monday, February 13, 2017, the Godfrey-Lee Board of Education narrowed down a field of thirty (30) applicants for the superintendent position, selecting four (4) it plans to interview in a couple of weeks.

Assisted by Mr. Tom White, Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) Executive Search Service, the Board is seeking to fill the position of Superintendent David Britten who will retire on July 1 following fifteen years with the district, the last nine as superintendent. Britten also held the position of elementary principal at Wayland Union Schools before joining Godfrey-Lee in 2002. Prior to that, he served a twenty-two year active duty military career retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1996.

The four candidates who will be interviewed in scheduled open public sessions are (in alphabetical order):

  • Ms. Tamika Henry, Principal at New Options High School in the Allendale Public School System
  • Dr. Carol Lautenbach, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching, Learning and Accountability for Godfrey-Lee Public Schools
  • Dr. Carlos Lopez, Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment in Plymouth-Canton Community Schools
  • Ms. Margaret Malone, Director of Fine Arts, Grand Rapids Public Schools

The initial round of interviews will take place on Monday and Wednesday, March 6 and 8, starting at 6:30 pm both evenings. Interviews will be held during Special Board Meetings open to the public at the Godfrey-Lee Early Childhood Center, 961 Joosten Street SW.

At the conclusion of the initial round of interviews, the Board is expected to narrow the field to two (2) for a final round and selection scheduled for Monday, March 20 at 6:00 pm in the Early Childhood Center.

Below is a copy of the final position announcement outlining the qualifications and skills being sought by the Board of Education as well as significant features of our district and surrounding community:




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Strong Schools, Strong Communities: Kent ISD Regional Enhancement Millage 2017

As your superintendent, I want to personally inform Godfrey-Lee Public Schools families and parents of the Strong Schools, Strong Communities proposal to establish a stable, reliable source of funding for West Michigan school districts. Every parent can agree that it is critical to provide our kids with a high-quality education and this proposal will help our students have the opportunity to learn, achieve and be college and career ready.

Many of you are aware that school districts across West Michigan, including our district, have taken steps to tighten their belts, find efficiencies, cut costs, reduce staff and consolidate services. Despite these efforts, too many local school districts and communities continue to struggle to provide the quality education our students deserve.

All 20 school districts within the Kent Intermediate School District have made the formal request to the Kent ISD to place the Strong Schools, Strong Communities proposal on the May 2, 2017 ballot. Voters will be asked to approve a 0.9 millage which will cost the average homeowner in the county approximately $81 a year (lower in our district).

If approved, all millage dollars will be collected by Kent ISD and distributed equally on a per pupil basis to each local school district. Our school district will be able to use these resources to meet the unique needs of our students and provide high-quality classroom instruction. Again, 100 percent of funds from this proposal will be spent on classroom instruction and kids. Moreover, all spending will be publicly disclosed on a website and independent audits will be performed to ensure transparency, accountability and that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely.

Over the next several months, you will see and hear more about the Strong Schools, Strong Communities proposal. Below are responses to frequently asked questions for your convenience. Thank you for all that you do for our kids and community, and please do not hesitate to contact me with questions, concerns or thoughts.


  1. What is an enhancement millage?

When the legislature in 1993 drafted a new funding formula for public schools, passed by voters as Proposal A in 1994, concerns existed that over time the new funding plan could fall short of revenue needs and expectations in certain communities. To compensate for the potential need for additional revenues, Proposal A included a provision allowing Intermediate School Districts to levy up to 3 mills for 20 years or less to be distributed 100% on a per pupil basis to every constituent K-12 school district within that ISD.

  1. How is an enhancement millage different than a bond issue?

School districts have two primary sources of funding, operational and capital. Capital revenues such as the 2013 bond approved by Godfrey-Lee voters for building and facility repairs and improvements, along with security and technology upgrades, is generally funded through bond issues, which are levied locally for capital expenditures. Operating revenues come primarily from the state, through the “foundation grant” allocated to each district on a per pupil basis. These state dollars include your local contribution through the 6-mill state education tax and the 18-mill non-homestead tax levy on businesses and second homes. An enhancement millage would be an additional local contribution to school operations that if approved would support programs and services at the classroom level.

  1. How is the enhancement millage proposal placed on the ballot?

The only way districts can receive additional operating revenues to meet student needs is through an ISD enhancement millage levied, collected, and distributed equally to each district on a per pupil basis. As a result, Godfrey-Lee Public Schools Board of Education, along with the other 19 school districts within Kent ISD, passed a resolution asking the Kent ISD board to place the proposal on the May 2, 2017, ballot. Per legislation Godfrey-Lee is prohibited from independently asking its voters for additional operating revenues.

  1. How much are districts asking for?

Districts asked Kent ISD’s school board to call for an election asking voter approval of 0.9 mills for 10 years. The 0.9 mills will provide an estimated $19,931,466 in additional revenue for Kent County school districts in the first year of the levy, which amounts to approximately $211 per pupil.

  1. How will the revenue be distributed?

The revenue will be collected by Kent ISD and distributed by law on an equal, per pupil basis, to each of the local school districts within Kent ISD. Kent ISD will not receive any money or administrative expense from this millage; per law 100% must be given to school districts. For Godfrey-Lee Public Schools, it will approximately generate an additional $415,000 annually beginning this next school year.

  1. How will these funds be used?

Godfrey-Lee Public Schools will dedicate 100% of the dollars raised from the enhancement millage to the classrooms for teaching and learning with emphasis on supporting academic achievement K-12. This will include:

  • Attracting and retaining highly-effective teachers
  • Curriculum and instruction materials
  • English language learning including dual-language immersion or other innovative programs
  • STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)
  • Innovative initiatives resulting from the district’s human-centered design process focused on learning growth and achievement in content and critical 21st century skills
  1. How much will this cost the average homeowner?

The proposal calls for a levy of 0.9 mills for 10 years. The state equalized taxable value for a $100,000 home is one-half the market price, or $50,000. If approved, the owner of a $100,000 home would pay an additional $45 per year in taxes, or $3.75 per month. In other words, for each $1,000 of state equalized taxable value, the homeowner would pay 90 cents more per year in taxes.

  1. Why do schools need more money?

All public school districts have seen the purchasing power of state revenue received decline over the past decade. A report ( page 17) from the House Fiscal Agency in January 2016 found school revenues, adjusted for inflation, are 6% less today than in 2000. You can also see a chart on how state funding for Godfrey-Lee has declined since 1995 when adjusted for inflation at

Because the purchasing power of district revenues has declined, districts have cut millions in operating expenses but are still struggling to maintain the core educational services necessary for all students to succeed. A recent study ( commissioned by the Michigan Legislature found every district should receive $8,667 per pupil, which is well above what most districts currently receive in state funding.

In addition, a three-year study ( by the Michigan State University Policy Institute released in June 2016 found Michigan school districts face financial hardship based on factors almost entirely outside their control. Top among those factors was inadequate state per-pupil funding, declining enrollment, and the increasing number of students with special needs statewide.

  1. What has Godfrey-Lee done to keep costs down?

Like most homeowners, the district has been cutting general fund expenses every year since 2009. To try and keep class sizes at the elementary level down and continue to provide quality educational programs with less resources, we have also had to dip into our fund reserves, often called the district’s “rainy day fund.” In 2008, our district had a 23% fund balance that has fallen to just above 10% today.

  1. When will the enhancement millage proposal be put before voters?

This proposal will be on the May 2, 2017, ballot.

  1. Why did schools ask for a “special” election?

The 20 Kent County School Districts felt the need for new revenues was significant as to merit a May election so students in the 2017-2018 school year and beyond will benefit should the enhancement millage be approved by voters.

  1. What happens after 10 years?

The millage will expire and enhancement funding will end unless local boards of education again petition Kent ISD to seek a renewal on behalf of local school districts.

  1. What if I have additional questions?

You can always contact the Godfrey-Lee Superintendent or Director of Finance at 616-241-4722.

Voting Information

Election Date: Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Last Day to Register: Monday, April 3, 2017 (online registration information available at

Absentee ballots will be available: Saturday, March 18, 2017

Ballot Language


 Pursuant to state law, the revenue raised by the proposed millage will be collected by the intermediate school district and distributed wholly and completely to local public school districts based on pupil membership count.

 Shall the limitation on the amount of taxes which may be assessed against all property in Kent Intermediate School District, Michigan, be increased by .9 mill ($0.90 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation) for a period of 10 years, 2017 to 2026, inclusive, to provide operating funds to enhance other state and local funding for local school district operating purposes; the estimate of the revenue the intermediate school district will collect if the millage is approved and levied in 2017 is approximately $19,931,466, which funds will be disbursed wholly and completely as required by statute to the following school districts: Byron Center Public Schools, Caledonia Community Schools, Cedar Springs Public Schools, Comstock Park Public Schools, East Grand Rapids Public Schools, Forest Hills Public Schools, Godfrey-Lee Public Schools, Godwin Heights Public Schools, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Grandville Public Schools, Kelloggsville Public School District, Kenowa Hills Public Schools, Kent City Community Schools, Kentwood Public Schools, Lowell Area Schools, Northview Public Schools, Rockford Public Schools, Sparta Area Schools, Thornapple Kellogg School, and Wyoming Public Schools.


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Message to Gov. Snyder: Invest in Education




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National Association of School Boards: Setting the Record Straight on Public Schools

By National School Boards Association

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) working with and through state
associations and more than 90,000 school board members is committed to providing the highest quality education for every child. At a time when public schools are educating more students at a higher level than ever before in history – and doing so despite enormous financial challenges – recent statements by the Trump administration are troublesome. The profound lack of knowledge about public education, as reflected in comments about public schools being “flush with cash” and badly underserving the nation’s children, coupled with policy proposals based on these “alternative facts”, pose a threat to a high-quality education for more than 50 million students.

16425943_10154272329547546_6167511453424511135_n“Day after day, public school leaders and educators perform acts of heroism,” said Miranda Beard, NSBA President and a school board member in Laurel, Mississippi. “Rhetoric that is devoid of facts, that significantly deviates from reality, undermines the work of millions of school board members, parents, administrators and teachers.”

Public education, for hundreds of years, has helped millions of students prepare for life. It has provided students from diverse backgrounds with knowledge and skills they used to create and sustain the world’s strongest economy. The education provided by public schools has instilled students with the ability to think creatively so they could solve some of the world’s greatest challenges.

“Public schools are the backbone of our country,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA Executive Director and CEO. “Public education has played a significant part in lifting generations of people from lower to middle income, and from middle to higher income. And, public schools have enormous potential to elevate even more children and their families out of poverty. Public education in America is a birthright, but its existence depends on the active support of leaders at all levels, which is why recent baseless charges are so troubling.”

Some of public education’s key accomplishments include:

  • Graduation rates that are at their all-time highest level
  • More students going to college than at any time in history
  • Career and technical education that has been modernized
  • Math performance increases at a higher than ever level
  • Reading performance increases among English language learners
  • Upgraded data systems to help teachers teach and students learn

These achievements and many more have been realized as budgets for public education have not fully recovered since experiencing significant reductions during the Great Recession.

Adequately funded, student-centered public schools provide a safe and supportive environment, a comprehensive education that prepares all children for a lifetime of learning in a diverse, democratic society. However, budget cuts and estrella_two_children_closeup_mg_0476-compressedproposals such as vouchers and other programs that divert essential funding from schools, along with federal government overreach, denigrates the amazing work taking place in what is arguably our most valuable institution.

“This is a pivotal time in public education and our nation’s school children deserve the best education possible,” said Gentzel. “We must and we can enhance public education by working together to find and implement the best ideas to accomplish this.”

Views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the endorsement of the Learning First Alliance or any of its members.

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