LANSING (AP) – Voters are one step closer to being asked to decide whether Michigan schools should get guaranteed state funding increases equal to at least the annual inflation rate.
A group that wants to put the issue before either the Legislature or voters submitted about 300,000 voter signatures to state election officials yesterday.
Supporters say it could take about four to six weeks for the state to review the petitions. If state officials decide there at least 254,206 valid signatures, the K-16 Coalition for Michigan’s Future proposal would go to the Legislature.
Lawmakers would have 40 session days to act on the proposal. If lawmakers don’t pass the plan, it would go to voters in November.
The Legislature so far has not acted on the proposal, but K-16 Coalition leader Tom White said discussions continue. Education leaders want some level of guaranteed funding after the past few years of tight state budgets. They say financial problems have led to slashed programs, laid-off teachers and tuition increases.
“Chances are good it’s going to go to the ballot,” said White, also executive director of the Michigan School Business Officials. “We are prepared to go to voters. But hopefully, we will be able to work out some sort of legislative solution.”
White said it’s possible more rigorous high school graduation requirements and school employee benefits could be included in the legislative talks. All have been the subject of legislative debate in recent months, and some lawmakers have said they would not address funding reforms unless the discussion is linked to improved performance of schools.
A coalition has formed against the funding proposal, fearing it would lead to higher taxes or large cuts in other state services such as police, prisons and aid to the state’s poorest people.
“It’s an incredibly selfish, one-sided proposal,” said Rich Studley of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.
The opposition group is called the Coalition to Stop the K-16 Spending Mandate. Its members include the chamber, the Michigan Townships Association, the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police and the Michigan Association of Home Builders.