To address Michigan’s long-standing problem of underfunding special education, legislators enacted a substantial reform of the state’s special education funding model early on Friday.
School officials have claimed for years that they were forced to siphon money from their general education budget in order to afford the special education expenses. It was determined in a 2017 audit commissioned by then-Lt. Gov. Brian Calley that special education was underfunded by $700 million dollars.
There is a $312 million increase in the budget for special education this year, reaching $1.9 billion.
Superintendent Erik Edoff of L’Anse Creuse Public Schools said the modification helps address the deficiency indicated in the 2017 report. “It’s a significant step in the direction of equalizing support for special education students,” he said. “We’re really appreciative.”
The plan was put up by state Rep. Thomas Albert, R-Lowell. He noted Thursday night that this is one of the most significant shifts in school funding in Michigan since voters adopted Proposal A in 1994, which entirely transformed how the state supports public schools in the state. “It’s a very big deal,” he said.
This transformation, says Nikolai Vitti, the superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District, should endure and state authorities should ultimately completely support special education programs, he said in an email to the Free Press “We are hopeful and expect that this special education funding increase is permanent and reoccurring rather than short-term and one-time,” he wrote.
According to Michigan State University education policy expert David Arsen, the reform takes the state in the right direction but will still not adequately finance special education obligations. “It moves us in the direction of something that is more desirable,” he said.