Michigan’s funding model for public education is flawed, speakers say

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Article courtesy of Crain’s Detroit Business.

Changes are needed to address inequities in Michigan’s public education funding model, education leaders said today.

Robert Bobb, emergency financial manager of the Detroit Public Schools, said a “radical change” is needed to address inequities in per-pupil funding between state school districts, noting that the DPS receives about $7,000 to $8,000 per student from the state, while other districts receive as much as $12,000 to $13,000 per student.

“I think that is a major disparity,” Bobb said during the Michigan Chronicle’s Pancakes and Politics forum at the Detroit Athletic Club this morning.

“We spend more in educating our children in our juvenile system than our education system,” Bobb said. “We’re spending money on the wrong end of the education spectrum.”

Curtis Ivery, chancellor of the Wayne County Community College District, echoed Bobb’s comments.

“The fact is that student success is more correlated with zip code than anything else,” because of the state’s funding system.

The changes called for are part of the broader education reform movement gaining momentum in Detroit — from the work of Bobb and his team to the citywide education plan released last week by the Excellent Schools Detroit coalition — which Wayne State University President Jay Noren said could be an example for the nation.

“We have an opportunity in Detroit to set the solution and tone, not only for Detroit, but the entire country,” Noren said.

Part of the reforms underway to transform education in Detroit include plans being hashed out by Bobb and Noren for Wayne State to offer dual-enrollment and other post-secondary college-credit courses at DPS high schools.

Last week, Bobb detailed a new academic plan that called for a 98 percent graduation rate by 2015, which some have called unrealistic.

Bobb dismissed the idea that the lofty goals were setting the district up for failure in a response to that question from the audience.

“It just drives me insane (the notion) that particularly for urban students…they cannot achieve,” Bobb said. “There is nothing wrong with these students’ minds.”

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