Regular Communication Updates from the Superintendents Office-Updated 9.9.19
Communication Updates from the Superintendent's Office
In a continued effort to keep our school community informed of district initiatives, highlights, interests, and celebrations a regular update will be posted and provided here. We have much to celebrate in HPS and we are pleased to partner with you in your District of Choice that is Right for Me!
September 9, 2019
It has been a great start to the new school year. Thank you to everyone for their support and collaboration.
- What's New in Holland Publics Schools-Don't forget to check out our weekly podcasts on WHTC radio. They are taped live every Wednesday morning between 9:15-9:30 and then posted on our district website here. They are quick updates on events happening across the school community.
- Student achievement is on the rise at Jefferson Elementary. We are very proud of the efforts of our professional and support staff who work with our students each day. Jefferson, when compared to like peers, is now one of the highest performing elementary schools in the state. Check out the Holland Sentinel article here.
- Congrats to Superintendent Davis and Principal Nick Cassidy on being trained and earning their Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) Champion designation. They are now part of a group of mental health stakeholders in the community equipped to share the impact of negative childhood experiences on the long-term growth and development of children over time.
- Holland Hospital and Holland Public Schools have teamed up to launch a School Mental Health Care Manager to support students and families who are at-risk of self-harm. In case you missed this story, you can read the Holland Sentinel article here.
- We are please to have a new school resource officer at Holland Middle School this year. Officer Sok is already making new connections with the school community and is eager to begin co-teaching with our professional staff. In case you missed the story, you can read more here.
- Thank you to all of the individuals who helped to support our HHS Marching Dutch Band members attend the 2019 DCI International World Championships in Indianapolis this summer. This proved to be an inspiring opportunity for our students to see what can be accomplished when hard work pays off. Our students are currently preparing for the MSBOA festival in October.
- Nature-based playgrounds are beginning to take shape across the district thanks to the support and creative design of the Outdoor Discovery Center. We currently have three installed at each of our elementary schools for our Great Start Readiness Pre-School Program. Currently, we have a larger play area going in at Longfellow School to support the play needs of the Holland Language Academy students during their transition. These play areas provide students with creative physical/motor development opportunities. This school year we are working with building teams to improve each of our playgrounds across the district. The HPS Board of Education has allocated approximately $1.3M in sinking fund dollars to enhance our playgrounds through this process.
- Spectator Expectations-Thank you to everyone for a great beginning at our extra-curricular events. We appreciate everyone adhering to these guidelines to ensure that our students have the ability to showcase their talents free of disruption and distraction. In case you missed them, you can read more about them here.
What's New In Holland Public Schools Radio Broadcasts-Updated 9.4.19
September 4, 2019
Holland High School Band Director Bethany VanOss talks about the readiness of the marching band for the upcoming season. Listen
August 28, 2019
Holland School Superintendent Dr. Brian Davis talks about state education funding. Listen
August 21, 2019
Dr. Brian Davis discusses the first day of classes and mold remediation process in three different schools. Listen
Shakespeare to return to HHS-Theatre Update 9.5.19
Dear Participating Members and Supporters of the Holland Public Schools Theatre Community,
The purpose of this communication is to provide you with a status update of securing a qualified and energized individual to lead forward our Holland High School Theatre Department. We appreciate the patience that has been extended to us during this search process. It has been the ongoing goal of the high school and district administration, with board support, to have a person in place to start this new academic year.
Over the course of this past spring and leading into this school year, we have reviewed and interviewed multiple candidates for this position. Through this process, we have made two separate job offers to individuals, each candidate bringing extensive theatre production and teaching experiences.
Our first candidate, due to personal family reasons, withdrew.
Unfortunately, in a second round search process, our finalist who accepted the position, is currently under contract and unable to start with us this fall as we were all anticipating and has had to withdraw. This candidate was overwhelmed with the level of community support and district tour that was provided to them last Friday. From the Performing Arts Center itself and scene shop area; to the extensive collection of wigs, props, and costumes; they were eager to start with us and to continue a program of excellence.
We received notification today, September 5, 2019 that they would not be able to join us. It was our hope that the communication this week was to announce their full acceptance and addition to our performing arts department.
The position has been posted again, and we will continue the search.
In the interim, I am pleased to share that PJ Maske has accepted and will begin putting together a Winter Shakespeare production incorporating dance and live music for those students who are interested in doing an after school extra-curricular production. Ms. Mask has a combined sixteen years of teaching, directing, producing and professional acting experience. She has her BA from James Madison University with a double major including theatre/dance. She also has a MA in Movement Studies from Central School of Speech and Drama, London, UK. She is the founding producer/artistic director of Urban Garden Performing Arts with over fifteen productions as well as over ten directing credits for other productions in the UK, North Carolina, and Virginia. Part of her teaching experience as a Shakespearean Teacher was over a five year period of time in North Carolina, hence her interest in this year’s production.
If you have a high school student who is interested in participating in this year’s production, we ask that your child stop in to the Student Success Office at Holland High School and indicate that they are by Friday, September 13. We will then make sure that Ms. Maske is able to connect with these interested parties directly as we move forward.
In the interim, we will continue our work to prepare for the Competitive Theatre season and filling our full-time opening.
School Aid Budget Update 9.5.19
The purpose of this communication is to update you on the state budget process in Lansing and possible impact on Holland Public Schools. I encourage you to read this communication, listen to the radio interview, and contact your State Senator and House of Representative. You can search them specifically online by entering your address. Senator Victory (517)373-6920, Senator Nesbitt (517)373-0793 and House Representative Slagh (517) 373-0830 or Whiteford (517) 373-0836 cover most of our school district. Representative Lily would also be a good contact at (517) 373-0838.
As of today, we are 16 business days until the end of the fiscal year for the state budget in Lansing. For the first time in nine years, the HPS Board of Education had to pass our annual operational budget without the state budget defined and how much revenue we would receive for school operations. Our fiscal year begins on July 1, while the state fiscal year begins on October 1. This is a critical issue facing all of our public schools today.
Last week, the state's Budget Director, Chris Kolb, issued a memo to all state department directors about having a contingency plan in place in case there is not a budget by midnight on Sept. 30. It stated, in part:
"Our goal is to determine those functions within your department that would be continued and those that would be temporarily discontinued in the event of a government shutdown.... we are looking for a comprehensive list of all functions and services within your department, including administrative functions, and whether they will be continued...Again, I want to emphasize that we remain hopeful that a budget agreement can be reached prior to October 1, but we are taking the necessary planning steps now as a precaution to ensure that state government is fully prepared should negotiations extend past September 30."
The Senate passed a shell supplemental School Aid budget and sent it to the House of Representative for consideration. This budget has no numbers or specific language included. It was simply acted on as a procedural move to put all of the pieces in place for the Legislature to act quickly once a compromise on the budget is reached. It was passed on a party-line vote. It is now time to hold our legislators accountable in filling in all of the missing pieces and finalize a budget.
Near the end of the day last Thursday, rumors started to heat up that the Republican majorities in the House and Senate will pass their version of a complete budget this week and send it to the Governor. It will probably not include road funding, as the Senate leaders have said that will be dealt with separately. Governor Whitmer has consistently shared that she will veto any budget that does not protect and bring more funding to our K-12 schools and addresses the infrastructure needs of our state, largely roads.
Are We Prepared for a Possible Continuation Budget?
Conversations have turned to the possible need for a continuation budget to avoid a government shutdown. A continuation budget would mean flat funding for schools until a budget is signed. This would mean an annual projected loss in anticipated revenue to Holland Public Schools for this year of approximately $350,000. We would have to review what this means and the impact on programming. This would be evaluated on a month-month basis. We are carefully reviewing all hires and requests from the classroom, building, and district level. Honestly, without a budget from the state, we are simply unable to enact any increased expenditures at this time that are beyond absolute necessity.
To gauge the impact a flat budget would have on school districts, the Michigan School Business Officials surveyed its members and found:
- More than 80% of districts passed budgets in June based on some level of increased per-pupil funding. (In HPS, we used an increase of $100/student.)
- Depending on how large an increase and how long it takes to resolve the state budget, these districts may have to go back and make cuts to those budgets.
- The survey also found more than 30% of districts would have cash flow problems this fall and be required to borrow money to meet payroll and operation expenses if there is a continuation budget.
- The data also indicated that if a continuation budget is passed 44 percent of school districts would increase class sizes, 67 percent would decrease educational supply budgets, 25 percent would lay off staff, 60 percent would defer needed maintenance and 89 percent would be unable to make the changes needed to bring their budgets into balance.
- Additionally, MSBO reported that nearly 1/3 of districts report that they would require an additional cash flow borrowing to cover payroll and operational expenses if a continuation budget were to be in place for 90 days or longer.
HPS may have to make difficult decisions for the current school year, but we would be able to continue school operations with regard to payroll and operational expenditures unless a reduction in state aid over last year is put into place. Unfortunately, this has happened before.
While not expected, and hopefully avoided, a state government shutdown would put all public school districts in Michigan in jeopardy. Districts would begin not receiving their state aid from the Department of Treasury beginning in late October. HPS would have enough cash reserves to operate the District for approximately two months.
Governor Issues Letter to School Community on Budget
The Michigan Association of School Boards, Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators, and the Middle Cities Education Association, all of which HPS is a member district of, supports the School Aid budget proposed by the Governor because of the steps it takes toward implementing the School Finance Research Collaborative and removes universities from the School Aid Fund. Your HPS Board of Educations passed a resolution of support of this funding methodology last spring. Of course, this will take an increase in state revenues to increase funding for our infrastructure and maintain current state programs. We hope that the Legislature will make the hard decisions to increase investment in our state public education system specifically and STOP diverting dedicated money from the School Aid Fund to other general fund expenditures. The Legislature needs to find a real fix to both the School Aid budget and the General Fund budget without shifts from one fund to another or one-time revenue that just creates further issues.
I would encourage each of you to contact our area Senator and House Representatives to share your concern about funding public education in our state and the critical need to have a budget in place by September 30. Our students deserve better.
You can listen to a podcast that I recently did on WHTC Radio on August 28, 2019. It is linked on our district website.
Thank you for your continued support and urgent attention to this matter.
Athletic/Extra-Curricular Spectator Expectations 9.4.19
In our continued effort to improve the spectator experience and increase safety and security for all, I would like to take this time to remind each of us expectations for attendance and participation at all sporting/extra-curricular events both at home and away. This includes venues that are Holland Public Schools owned and operated, other school districts, and venues that are rented for a specific use from the public and/or private sector. This applies to the facility itself, parking lots, and open public areas that are designated as parts of the venue where the event is being held. While most of these expectations are not new, I felt it was important to make sure they are clear to students, parents and community members.
We encourage all students and their families to participate in extracurricular activities and sporting events. This is a great way to build community and celebrate the many accomplishments of our students.
- While in attendance, we strongly recommend that all TK-8 students that attend events be accompanied by their parent(s) or guardian(s).
- We ask that students in grades TK-5 follow our “POWER” expectations: Pride, Own Your Actions, Wise Choices, Engaged, Respect; and students in grades 6-12 follow our “ DUTCH” expectations: Diverse, United, Thrive, Committed, Honorable. These expectations are taught and reinforced in our classrooms. It is expected that these behaviors extend to extra-curricular events and activities.
- The expectation remains that students will also follow the HPS code of conduct at sporting events and all school-sponsored events. The District’s code of conduct is posted on our district website as links from each of our school programs.
- Last year, with your support, we initiated a "No Re-Entry" policy at our home football games. This practice will continue. Please make sure that you take all personal belongings needed for the game with you upon entrance into the stadium.
Our positive shared experience at events is dependent upon all of us working together and our self-monitoring and accountability. Students will be held accountable for their behavior in the following manner.
- Students failing to follow the school code of conduct (including profanity, disruptive behavior, disrespect, loitering etc.) at such events will result in students being removed from the event and issued a disciplinary infraction and “Trespass Notice.” They will also be subject to school consequences in similar fashion as if this behavior occurred at school.
- Students failing to follow these expectations more than one time, after a first restorative session and review of expectations, will be subject to additional accountability for their actions which may include additional school consequences and exclusion from all athletic events and other school-related extra-curricular activities.
At the conclusion of a game, all spectators are asked to leave the venue within 25 minutes. Specifically at the Ray & Sue Smith Stadium on the campus of Hope College, a 25 minute countdown will begin at game’s end to notify everyone when the stadium needs to be cleared.
If you ever see any unsafe activity or behaviors interfering with your ability to enjoy our events as a spectator or a participant, we ask that you report this to one of the many administrators and event coordinators on site. In addition, members from the Department of Public Safety are available to assist.
By working together, we can ensure that our student participants, and our spectators are able to enjoy these special events together as we cheer on our many athletic and extra-curricular participants.
We appreciate your support and encourage you to discuss these reminders with your family.
2019 Fiscal Budget Update-March 5, 2019
2019 Fiscal Budget Update-March 5, 2019
In a press release earlier today by MASA, The Michigan Association of Superintendents & Administrators (MASA), the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB), the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators (MAISA), and the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals (MASSP) applaud Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on a budget proposal that invests in the classroom and recognizes the need for school funding equity based upon a weighted formula. The budget, as outlined, addresses the concerns of Michigan citizens, 70 percent of whom (in a statewide poll commissioned by the School Finance Research Collaborative) said they believe Michigan’s schools are underfunded.
As a contributing member to the work of the Michigan School Finance Research Collaborative Project, and Superintendent of Holland Public Schools, I too applaud Gov. Whitmer on her education proposal. Basing funding on the actual cost to educate students with differing needs is the most equitable way to structure school funding and ensure that all students achieve at the highest level. The results of the recent Michigan School Index and results of the Reading Now Network point to this correlation of achievement and need.
If the Legislature adopts the budget proposed by Gov. Whitmer, this will be one of the most significant changes in the way we fund schools in Michigan’s public education system in a generation, and the largest operational investment made in education since 2002.
Included in the budget proposal was a boost in funding for students impacted by poverty, special education students, and additional funds to increase the number of literacy coaches statewide – a topic that came up during Gov. Whitmer’s State of the State Address last month where she discussed Michigan’s rank nationally for student literacy.
"Some students need more supports than others. Our schools provide individualized instruction for each pupil and our state budget should recognize that we need individualized funding based on each student's need," said Wendy Zdeb, MASSP executive director. "The governor's budget is a huge step in the right direction because it recognizes that a one-size-fits-all funding formula and top-down decision making doesn't provide many students with the support they need to be successful."
“We look forward to working with the governor and the Legislature to get a budget passed before school budgets are due in late June,” said Don Wotruba, executive director of MASB. “This will ensure our students receive a high-quality education, and that school boards and administrators can make timely and accurate budgeting decisions.”
Key factors in the proposed budget include:
- $507 million in investment for a new, restructured weighted funding model that includes a base per-pupil amount plus additional funding for students with more costly educational needs:
- $235 million to increase base per-pupil funding to $8,051 for districts at the minimum (a $180 per pupil increase) and $8,529 for districts at the maximum (a $120 per pupil increase). This reduces the gap between the highest and lowest funded districts to $478 per pupil.
- $120 million to increase state reimbursements for special education services by 4 percentage points. This brings total state funding for special education services to $1.1 billion, which will help districts address the wide variety of needs for special education students, which range from academic supports to one-on-one specialists.
- $102 million to provide an estimated $894 per at-risk or economically disadvantaged pupil (11 percent of the state minimum foundation allowance). This brings total funding for this purpose to $619 million. Economically disadvantaged students tend to have lower academic success rates. The recommended funding will allow districts to provide additional instructional supports like tutoring and non-instructional supports like counseling to improve academic outcomes for these students.
- $50 million to provide an estimated $487 per career and technical education pupil (6 percent of the state minimum foundation allowance). This brings total funding for this purpose to $55 million and will help support the higher costs of materials, equipment, and staff for career and technical education courses.
- $85 million to expand state-funded preschool programming. This investment expands eligibility to 4-year-olds in families with an income up to 300% of the federal poverty level, and also increases state payments per child. This investment brings total funding to $328.9 million and will provide preschool education to an estimated 42,500 children, an increase of 5,100 children from current funding levels.
- $24.5 million to triple the number of state-funded literacy coaches available to assist elementary school teachers and help improve early literacy attainment.
I look forward to working with Gov. Whitmer on her plans for the future and a new funding plan for public education in our state. We are a long way away from a final budget but this is a step in the direction needed for Holland Public Schools.
Michigan School Index Report-What it means! March 5, 2019
Michigan School Index Report-What it Means!
I hope that each of you took the opportunity at our elementary parent-teacher conferences or soon will be at our upcoming secondary conferences to talk with your child’s teacher about student growth and performance. This is one way in which we enjoy sharing with each other the learning taking place at Holland Public Schools. We have much to be proud of and to celebrate.
In addition to our local assessments that we use to measure student growth, the state of Michigan is required to demonstrate growth to the U.S. Department of Education. The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) developed the School Index System to comply with accountability requirements established in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015. ESSA replaced the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
The School Index System provides parents and school districts comparative information about school performance in six areas: student growth, student proficiency, school quality/student success, graduation rates, English Learner progress, and assessment participation. It also provides comparative data to like schools serving similar student populations.
- An overall composite index value, or score
- Index values for each performance area scored, and
- Index values for student subgroups, including students with disabilities, English learners, various racial/ethnic subgroups, and economically disadvantaged students
Index values range from 0-100. Schools with low index values in one or more performance area or student subgroup (ie. ethnicity, free/reduced lunch status, special education, are learning a second language) are targeted for support through the MDE and their local Intermediate School District (ISD). Schools that are targeted for support will work with the MDE and local ISD to develop an improvement plan.
We are proud that Holland Public Schools ranked very high in several areas, including School Quality and Student Success, Graduation Rates and Assessment Participation. Across the district our scores ranged from 30.01-100. Each of our elementary schools and the middle school program have outscored our peer group comparisons for the last three years that data is available.
We have had the opportunity to review our scores and teams are already in the process of planning work to address our areas of improvement. We did qualify for Additional Targeted Support (ATS) at Holland High School as we continue to assess and build core academic proficiency and supports for our students who are learning English as a second language.
One of the ways in which we are meeting the needs of our English Learners is through our dual language immersion program at Holland Language Academy, Holland Middle School and next year at as this program will transition into Holland High School. This soon to be TK-12 program has been growing over the past several years and we are excited about the academic progress to date.
Our faculty and staff are extraordinarily talented and dedicated to ensuring that each and every student succeeds. That said, we recognize there is always room for improvement, and we are constantly seeking ways to collaborate and grow. We look forward to working closely with the Ottawa Area ISD and MDE to identify ways we can best meet the needs of all students in the district.
Our experienced staff will continue to customize learning plans that best meet the needs of students identified through this state accountability plan. That is our goal every day – and that goal is not changing. One way that we are already doing this is through our successful Individualized Reading Improvement Plans in each of our elementary schools. We also continue to focus on our district identified priorities of literacy, social competency and teaching practices.
We celebrate the fact that students at our schools speak over 30 different languages – from Burundi to Rohingya to English. We welcome the opportunity to build on the success we’ve had educating – and, in fact, learning from – an extraordinarily diverse student body. We remain committed to ensuring that our programs and performance standards are right for every child in our community. Through our work on equity and building culturally responsive classrooms, we will be beginning an intensive three-year professional development plan this April to ensure that each child, regardless of their ethnicity or economic status, will achieve at high levels of growth and proficiency.
Our Compassionate Staff, Leading Edge Programs, and partnerships with a Committed Community will ensure that we are able to Embrace, Engage, and Empower each student for success in an ever-changing world. Holland Public Schools is Right for Me!
Thank you for your continued learning and partnership with us as your district school of choice.
Family Engagement Strategic Plan Update 1.27.19
Family Engagement Strategic Planning Update
A group of dedicated parents, support staff, teachers, and administrators worked over the course of several months to develop a family engagement plan for the district. This work was embedded in study with Dr. Karen Mapp through online learning in partnership with Harvard. This information will be presented to the HPS Board of Education in February, 2019.
Definition of Family Engagement:
Family Engagement is a full, equal, and equitable partnership among families, educators, and community partners to promote student learning from birth through college and career.
Partners in Education
To ensure a family engagement partnership that supports the life-long success of each student
Families as First Teachers, Trusting School Culture, Collaborative Relationships and Community
Enhance student learning through Engaging, Educating, and Empowering families and school teams.
- All families have dreams for their children and want the best for them.
- Families are the first teachers. We recognize the critical role that parents and other caregivers play as the first teachers of their child and the shared responsibility they have for learning.
- Student Achievement is central to our work. Our parents and staff must work together to increase the level of individual student performance.
- Trust and Communication are foundational. Families will engage in the school setting if they believe that they can trust the individuals in the school setting. Trust builds through two-way transparent, simple, clear communication in a language they understand.
- Connections foster more engagement. A family-friendly and welcoming culture that supports family engagement and student learning is critical to building strong partnerships. This is built through ongoing education of all stakeholders.
- The responsibility for building and sustaining partnerships between school, home, and the community rests primarily with school staff, especially school leaders. A family engagement program needs to be developed and sustained, with the necessary resources and infrastructure to support its endeavors.
- Parent-Teacher Conferences Format and Structure-Provide a structure that allows for two-way dialogue and collaboration throughout the school year focused on the developing needs of a child socially, emotionally and academically.
- Learning at Home Resources-Facilitate information, ideas, and resources with/for/by families about how to help their children at home with homework and other curriculum-related activities, decisions, and planning.
- Communication-Design effective forms of school-to-home and home-to-school communications about school programs, student learning and community resources.
- Parenting-Encourage opportunities for families to establish home environments that support their children as learners through education and networking.
- Decision-Making-Include and inform families as participants in school decisions and develop parent leaders across the school community
- Ongoing Education for Stakeholders-To build capacity of staff, families, and community partners that supports successful school-family partnerships that lead to student achievement.
- Benchmarks of Success-It is important to define the outcomes and data that will inform our work and measurement our impact.
It’s easy to criticize public schools, but without proper funding, there’s only so much they can do.
I came across this opinion article and found it worth sharing with our HPS family. It was written by Ron Wilson-Superintendent of Ionia Public Schools.
This week I would like to talk about criticism.
My father once told me, “Son, do not criticize someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes, because if they become angry, they will be a mile away and won’t have any shoes!” My father is always good for a humorous quip, sprinkled with some blatantly good advice. I think the point he was making speaks to our tendency to criticize and judge before we first seek to understand.
It’s certainly easy to be a critic. I think the following excerpt from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech, “Citizenship in a Republic,” delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris, France on April 23, 1910, sums that up:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Since the early 1990′s Michigan public schools and educators have been criticized for poor student achievement scores and a plethora of other social ills. But without adequate funding, schools are limited in what they can accomplish.
The recent study completed by Michigan State University, titled “Michigan School Finance at the Crossroads: A Quarter Century of State Control,” concludes that our public schools are not adequately funded
An article published in the Jan. 23 edition of MSU Today summarized the report.
“Michigan has tried to improve schools on the cheap, focusing on more accountability and school choice,” said David Arsen, MSU professor of education policy and lead author of the study. “To make those policies effective, they have to be matched with adequate funding. We have been kidding ourselves to think we can move forward while cutting funding for schools. We don’t have to wait any longer. We know that this isn’t working.”
One fact that surprised me, is that after adjusting for inflation, Michigan’s education funding in 2015 was only 82 percent of what it was in 1995, and worse than any other state.
The report found that the State of Michigan covers less than one-third of the costs for federally-required special education programs. It also found that students from low-income families now account for half of all students, but per-pupil state support for them has dropped even more sharply, by 60 percent.
The study reaffirms an earlier 2018 study by the Michigan School Finance Research Collaborative, or MSFRC, which estimated the base cost of $9,590 to educate a typical student to meet state performance standards. It recommended additional funding for districts with large numbers of students living in poverty, English language learners, special education students and large geographic boundaries.
It's time for less testing, more funding for Mich. schools
I came across this opinion page written by Ron Koehler-Assistant Superintendent at Kent Intermediate School District and found it worth sharing with the HPS family.
One of my favorite music artists, John Prine, once wrote a song with the refrain “It don’t make much sense that common sense don’t make no sense no more.”
That is about the only rational thing I can say about the current state of politics. The most recent example is the record-setting orgy of excess that recently concluded the 99th session of the Michigan Legislature.
For the third time in as many years the Legislature refined the school accountability measurement system by adopting an A-F formula that will give schools letter grades on their performance on standardized tests.
The Legislature also diverted more funds from the School Aid Fund to repair potholes and finance environmental cleanup. This diversion — more than $140 million immediately and growing to nearly $180 million on an annual basis — brings this year’s total to more than $1 billion when added to the $908 million already being taken from our K-12 classrooms to finance higher education.
The A-F bill was passed, of course, because lawmakers claim schools are failing to produce college and career-ready students. Of course, they are diverting more funds away from K-12 classrooms each year to ensure our K-12 districts will not have sufficient resources to meet their demands.
The most comprehensive school funding study in the nation released earlier this year by the School Finance Research Collaborative makes it clear Michigan districts cannot afford the supports students and teachers require to achieve Michigan standards.
So, the beatings will continue until morale improves. More apt, however, is the observation made by an Iowa farmer and school board member some years back when discussing the new standards put in place by President George W. Bush under the “No Child Left Behind” elementary and secondary education act.
“You can’t fatten a hog by weighing it,” said the farmer, expressing the simple truth that coming up with new, more frequent and elaborate measurements will never take the place of adequate nourishment and husbandry.
Our Michigan Legislature and the Snyder administration ignored this simple piece of common sense. Following the $470 per pupil “rebasing” of the per-pupil foundation grant in 2011, this administration spent 77 cents of every new dollar in the School Aid Fund somewhere other than the classroom. Much of it was spent on community colleges and higher education — even as they criticize our students for needing remediation (fattening) once they get there — and most of the rest on unfunded pension liabilities.
The $470 per pupil cut that afforded Gov. Snyder his signature $1.5 billion corporate income tax cut means every child who started kindergarten in 2011 will have had $3,760 less invested in his or her elementary and middle school experience than if there had been no cut at all.
For a classroom of 30 — too large, says the research, but common in Michigan — that’s $112,800 less. That could have brought those children the expertise of reading experts and professional development for their teachers. It could have brought a social worker or guidance counselor to those children, to provide expert assistance for social and emotional needs.
Instead, those dollars went to tax breaks for corporations that, from 2011 through today, have enjoyed the longest period of economic expansion in Michigan and U.S. history. Those diverted dollars virtually guarantee our children cannot achieve the standards our Legislature set for them. That was the conclusion of the School Finance Research Collaborative study.
Hogs don’t gain weight by standing on a scale. Children don’t learn without the educational nourishment to fulfill their needs. It’s just common sense, which is pretty uncommon in today’s world.
This guest commentary first appeared in Bridge Magazine, an online publication of the nonpartisan, nonprofit Center for Michigan.