Senate Appropriations Committee passes education funding bills

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday passed three education funding bills for the 2013-2014 budget year, covering K-12, higher education and community colleges, despite universal opposition from Democrats on the committee.

Like Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget proposal, the Senate bills come nowhere close to restoring the $1 billion that Snyder and his Republican allies raided from our kids’ schools — just to help fund more than $2 billion in tax cuts for corporate special interests.

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K-12 schools

Under the Senate K-12 funding plan, schools at the lowest foundation grant level would see a $134 per-pupil increase, but grants for technology, best practices and class size reduction would be slashed.

The Senate K-12 plan, Senate Bill 182, calls for increasing the lowest foundation grant level to $7,100 per pupil, up from $6,966. The Senate plan also calls for the maximum foundation grant to go up to $8,063 per pupil, an increase of $50. In comparison, Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget proposal calls for a minimum per-pupil aid payment of $6,966, plus a one-time equity payment of $34 per pupil for those at the bottom.

To make up for the difference, the Senate proposes doing away with a $155 million payment proposed by Snyder that would go to school districts to defray some retirement costs.

Senate Bill 182 also calls for increasing funding for early childhood education by $65 million — the same amount proposed by the governor.

The committee’s plan would eliminate $130 million in best practices and technology infrastructure grants for local districts, as well as cut $2 million from class-size reduction grants.

Senate Bill 182 passed, 10-6, with Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, joining Democrats in opposition.

Higher education

The Senate Appropriations Committee also passed a $1.43 billion higher education budget, despite opposition from Democrats who took exception to the continued use of money from the School Aid Fund to pay for the higher education budget.

Sen. Morris Hood III, D-Detroit, introduced a failed amendment that would have restored $200 million back to the School Aid fund, and plugged the hole in the higher education budget with general fund revenue.

The higher education appropriations bill, Senate Bill 196, passed on party lines, with all 11 Republicans on the Appropriations Committee voting in favor, and all five Democrats voting no.

Community colleges

Finally, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed Senate Bill 199, the community colleges budget, which calls for the same $336 million funding level requested by Snyder — a 14 percent increase over the current year’s budget.

However, much like the higher education budget, Senate Bill 199 would take School Aid funding meant for K-12 schools and instead use it for community colleges.

Sen. Glenn Anderson, D-Westland, introduced an amendment that would transfer nearly $200 million back to the School Aid Fund, and use general fund dollars to make up for the lost revenue in the community colleges budget. The amendment failed, and the bill passed by a 9-7 margin. Every Democrat voted against the budget, as did Colbeck and Sen. Mike Green, R-Mayville.

The three education appropriations bills will next go before the full Senate for approval.