Joint House and Senate panels agree on education budgets

Michigan K-12 school districts are set to see a small increase in funding for next year’s budget, but nowhere near enough to make up for the $1 billion in cuts that the Snyder administration previously made to local schools.

A joint Michigan House and Senate conference committee Thursday agreed on a compromise K-12 budget bill that would increase per-pupil funding by $60 for the state’s lowest-funded districts and $30 for the wealthiest districts. Other school districts would receive a proportional increase between $30 and $60 per pupil.

The slight increase in funding would bring the minimum state foundation grant to school districts to $7,026 per pupil, up from $6,966.

In addition, the conference committee has recommended keeping in place performance grants and class-size reduction grants. The Senate’s plan had eliminated those grants.

The budget passed by the conference committee also increases funding for early childhood education by $65 million — a major win for MEA and the 1,400 members who called their legislators to demand more support for early childhood education.

Higher education

Meanwhile, a conference committee assigned to the higher education budget voted to allocate $1.43 billion in state aid to public universities, representing an increase of $24.9 million over the 2012-13 budget.

Under the conference committee’s recommendations, public universities must cap tuition increases at 3.75 percent, or else they will be ineligible for performance funding. Michigan State University, for example, would stand to lose about $250 million in state funding if it were to raise tuition more than 3.75 percent.

The conference committee also slid inappropriate social issues into its higher education budget, including a ban on domestic partner benefits for university employees, allowing university social workers to refuse to counsel gays and lesbians, and requiring universities to submit reports on stem cell research.

Community colleges

Another conference committee approved $336 million in state funding for Michigan’s 28 community colleges — a 14.2 percent increase over the current budget year. The conference committee’s budget continues Snyder’s policy of raiding the School Aid Fund to pay for community colleges, as $197.6 million of the community college budget comes from funds that would have otherwise gone to K-12 schools.

The committee reports goto the House and Senate next week for final passage.