Funding the Failing Education System in Michigan

PRE-PROPOSAL 1. Media Artifact 

2. Persona and POV statement


Persona name: Andrew Jones

Age: 16

School/occupation: Student at local Detroit Metro High School

Location: Detroit, Michigan   

Quote: "I feel the effects first-hand when the education budget does not receive proper funding. I go to school eager to learn so that I could have the opportunity to be the first member of my family to attend college, but unfortunately, I do not feel like I will be able to have this opportunity because I have not gotten the foundation level of education needed to continue on to college." 


  • Andrew comes from a low-income family in Detroit. Both of his parents work blue-collar jobs and can only afford for him to attend public schools in Detroit.

  • Andrew goes to school every day and finds himself in a classroom watching movies with substitute teachers, not being able to read his textbook due to its terrible condition and on the rare occasion that he is taught it is material that is at a fourth-grade level. 

  • Andrew feels unsafe on school property due to the physical condition of classrooms and the building itself. The lack of teachers in numbers leads to chaos and disorganization in Andrew’s public schools. 


  • Andrew is a motivated student who is eager to learn, so that he can change his future and provide for himself and his family later in life. He is angered that his school environment cannot provide him with the opportunities and materials for him to get a proper education.

  • Andrew wants to do well enough on his ACT/SAT in order to be able to get into college and receive enough of an education so that he can get a good job. 

  • Andrew works a job outside of school to provide him with money to purchase textbooks and books so that he can teach himself outside of school because he is not learning enough in school. 

 POV Statement:

Andrew, a hardworking and motivated student who wishes he had access to good education in order to allow him to pursue his education in college, so that he can get a good job to escape the poverty and lack of opportunity that his family has faced for generations.


3. Potential Solutions:

SOLUTION 1: Allocate money away from the infrastructure budget, and towards education, thus providing more funding towards educational resources for teachers and students. As a way to raise revenue for infrastructure, Michigan can employee full service gas stations, thus increasing jobs and using tax money for expenses. 

  • Employing gas station attendants would create jobs and help the overall economy in Michigan. The unemployment rate in Michigan is 4.2% compared to the national rate of 3.5%. This could give the unemployed a chance to get back to work and receive wages to support themselves and/or their families. 

  • Sales inside convenience stores can also be taxed. “Another major source of income and potential sales and use tax issues relate to the convenience store (C-store) located within a gas station. While the convenience store may purchase inventory as a tax-exempt sale for resale, the majority of the sales are taxable to the customer.” 

  • With more jobs being created and more people working, the income taxes collected will be higher. Michigan has a flat income tax rate of 4.25%. These taxes can go towards funding education. 

  • Money can also be collected from car washes. Another major income source for a gas station owner or operator is an on-site car wash. The car wash may be automated, and/or self-service, or it may be full service. The entire wash is taxable to the customer and the gas station owner my purchase the materials used in the car wash tax free by presenting a valid resale certificate to its vendor in lieu of paying tax.

  • Gas station attendants are a way to raise revenue because it is a great method of job creation and the money from employee taxes could be put towards education.

SOLUTION 2: Allocate money towards funding education. Legalize sports betting and place a high tax on sports betting activities.

  • Michigan is considering legalized sports betting after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year opened the door to sports gambling, essentially ending Nevada’s monopoly on places in the U.S. that could legally take bets on sporting events.

  • “We initially submitted suggestions to a draft bill and anticipated that we would have an opportunity to review an updated draft before the bill dropped. However, that did not happen. We continue to have revenue concerns regarding the bill’s impacts on the School Aid Fund.”

  • A House fiscal analysis estimates the mature sports betting the market would generate $175 million to $225 million annually in sports betting revenues. The state School Aid Fund would get $350,000 to $450,000, and the Michigan Transportation Fund would get the same.

  • Whether the bills move forward, however, may depend on the current political climate in Lansing, where the recent fight over the state budget between the state’s Democratic governor and Republican legislature produced no agreement on-road funding and where the governor used line-item vetoes to adjust the budget sent to her by the legislature.

  • “But I have the votes in both the House and the Senate to pass all the bills,” Iden reiterated. “What I don’t want to do is get another veto. So I am trying to continue the dialogue with the administration about finding an agreeable tax rate that everybody can live with to be able to bring this to a resolution. We can go very quickly once I get sign-off from the governor’s office.” -Brandt Iden (third-term Republican state representative from the Kalamazoo area)

SOLUTION 3: Allocate money away from the infrastructure budget, and towards education. Michigan can implement Sin Taxes to reduce the use of tobacco products while raising money for the Infrastructure Budget.

  • A sin tax is an excise tax on socially harmful goods. An excise tax is a flat tax imposed on each item sold. The most commonly taxed goods are alcohol, cigarettes, gambling, and pornography. 

  • There has been great debate in the state of Michigan about ways to counteract the use of e-cigarettes and tobacco products. Since it is unclear whether the state can strictly ban the use of e-cigarettes, placing a sin tax and rising the price of the goods would work as an incentive for the youth, who don’t have large disposable income, to stop purchasing these products. 

  • Policymakers are right to think that sin taxes lead to lower consumption. The exact estimates vary from study to study, but economists have found that in general, a 1% increase in the price of tobacco or alcohol in America leads to a 0.5% decline in sales. This shows that this would be an effective way to reduce sales of tobacco products. 

  • Michigan is already fighting the increased usage of e-cigarettes among teenagers. Michigan has banned flavored e-cigs and warns about the dangers of vaping. With a sin tax on unflavored e-cigs, this will disincentivize kids from purchasing these harmful products which also bringing in revenue for the state. 

  • Among several states that implement sin taxes, there are 10 in particular that are profiting from this the most. One of the most profitable sin taxes comes from lottery tickets. This can be another source of revenue for Michigan that can subsidize education.




Reference to a current Michigan bill or law that relates in some way to your proposal: 

Senate Joint Resolution A: Constitutional amendments; state; permissible uses of school aid funds; revise.

Why this proposal will make a difference in the lives of students of all ages across Michigan or a significant subgroup (by age, background, economic status, and/or region, etc.) of students in Michigan:

This proposal will make a difference in the lives of students of all ages across Michigan in primary education. With this proposal, the education system will receive more funding that can be put towards more educational resources, after school programs, better quality facilities, and more. The possibilities are endless. This will change the educational experiences of all students in primary education in Michigan and provide them with the best possible chance for success. 

How and where did you learn about the issues underlying your proposal?

Last year, Samantha attended a workshop at a school in Detroit and witnessed the poor quality of the facilities, the outdated resources, and how much improvement the school could use. She could only think about how many other schools are like this. After learning about the budget cuts that were proposed this year from the Michigan legislature, we could not help but think how this would affect education and students around Michigan. As students ourselves, we see these effects first hand. We researched more about the Michigan education system and learned how desperately schools need more funding. 

How has your service activity influenced your thinking about this proposal?

Working with Books for a Benefit allows us to volunteer our time working with children and on projects that help schools around the local area. Seeing how much in need schools around Michigan are makes us realize how important and impactful this proposal could be. Students don’t have the basic necessities that all children should have. It saddened us that kids have to struggle just to go to school and that schools can’t provide the proper resources because they don’t receive enough funding. 

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue: 



Talk directly with at least 3 real live people who have special knowledge about this topic or the impact your proposal would have, and summarize their comments. These may include people appearing in your media artifact (video, podcast, etc.).

CONSULTATION 1: Jamarria Hal, Ex-Student at an underfunded Detroit Public High School and the Plaintiff in Suing Detroit Public Schools 

  • Jamarria describes the scenery of his school, “ Chains on the doors, disgusting food and dirty water, bathroom stalls without doors. No computers, tablets or SMART Boards. The few books I saw in the school were older than me.” Desperate for change Jamarria and four other Detroit students sued the state of Michigan in 2016, saying they had a constitutional right to be educated. Their argument failed this summer in Detroit district courts, but they appealed the decision on the grounds that, “Literacy is necessary for voting, accessing the courts and serving in the military.” Jamarria explained that in high school, he only had to write a three- to five-page essay once. In community college, he has written three in a month. He tries to read novels every day and his reading level has improved from that of an eighth-grader to that of a junior or senior in high school. Jamarria’s goal is to attend Florida A&M University.

CONSULTATION 2: William Koski, a law professor who runs the Youth and Education Law Project at Stanford University and has done extensive research on the Michigan public education crisis

  • Koski speaks of the lawsuit appeal and states, “It’s not worth it to this student, to the family, to sacrifice another generation of kids in Detroit.” William Koski runs the Youth and Education Law Project at Stanford University The Youth and Education Advocacy Clinic offers students the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of educational rights and reform work, including direct representation of youth and families in special education and school discipline matters. Koski explains that “The thinking is, ‘The situation really is quite desperate. We’ve got to shake things up somehow. … So let’s go for it.” He stresses the crucial need for education reform in the state of Michigan, specifically, explaining how this problem leads to an escapable chain of problems. 

CONSULTATION 3: Pamela Pugh, Michigan State Board of Education Vice President 

  • Pamela Pugh says that she has notified the Michigan Attorney General’s office she did not support the legal position that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the lawsuit’s appeal on mootness of grounds. Pugh claims that “In my opinion, this robbed Detroit children of the basic right to literacy, a fundamental right which I believe should be determined to be guaranteed by the U. S. Constitution, as well as other constitutional rights which require literacy skills.” Pugh said past practices by government officials and policymakers in Michigan who were unwilling to address inequities within the Detroit school system are ultimately responsible for the district’s failings.

“While our children and educators are being labeled as failures, Michigan’s K-12 public education has been built on a crumbling foundation of racism and historic segregationist practices; many of which were sanctioned by our very own state government,” Pugh said.

Reaction or advice from a Topic Coordinator:

After meeting with Jeff, we realized our proposal was going in too many directions. We originally had the idea of reallocating money away from transportation and infrastructure budgets and putting money towards education and technology. When researching where to put money into we also came across the student debt crisis issue. Jeff helped us realize that we were trying to tackle too many problems at once and we should focus on one problem and dive deeper into that. Jeff also helped us revise our persona. He suggested that the persona be someone that is directly affected by our proposal and someone that people could relate to. Lastly, Jeff suggested we have numbers and evidence behind all our assertions. Some of our claims and solutions were logic and conceptually based, however, to have a strong solution there must be hard evidence to back it up. Once our meeting was over, we immediately knew we had to change the direction of our proposal. We decided to focus on education because this affects every student in Michigan and it happens to also affect us. We then completely revised our persona to perfectly fit the proposal and who would be directly affected by it. This gave us a clear direction of where to go in and made it easier for us to come up with creative solutions for our proposal. 


Research process:

Describe your research process — indicate who you talked to (including but not limited to consultants), what you read, what your thinking was, how it changed over time, and how your consultants changed your thinking. This description of your research process definitely could include “dead ends,” or ideas you had that didn’t ultimately bear fruit.  In short, we want to know what you did and how it led to your legislation, and we also want you to give us a window into your thought process.

Once we had a better direction of where we were going with our proposal, we dove right into researching about Michigan’s education system. We were shocked when we realized that Michigan was ranked last in revenue growth for K-12 schools. This made us realize how important this proposal is and how much of an impact this will make on not only students, but teachers, administrators, and parents. We talked to Michigan high school students, law officials, and a professor on education equality. We never realized how in need of funding Michigan’s education system is. Coming from a school like the University of Michigan that gets tons of funding from donors, alumni, and the state, it was hard to realize that primary schools don't see the same funding and support from the state, which is so desperately needed. There were numerous articles about how public schools and charter schools are seeing budget cuts and how students realize that they go to schools that are not the quality they deserve. It saddened us to think that students don’t have equal access to quality education which everyone deserves. It made us even more motivated to work on this proposal and actually impact the lives of students across the states. 

Author contributions:

We both worked on certain parts together and then also split up other sections. Specifically, Cassie worked on the persona/POV, solution 2, consultations, counter-arguments, funding, and Whereas statements on our final proposal. Samantha worked on the research process, operative clauses, reaction from topic coordinator, the entire context section, references, and solution 3. Together, we contacted solution 1 and worked on the media artifact together. 


The sections below should comprise your final proposal language, submitted for consideration by your peers and potential inclusion in the MSC Platform.

Preambulatory clauses

These set up the PROBLEM, but not the solution.

WHEREAS….Total revenue for Michigan schools has declined by 30 percent since 2002 when adjusted for inflation.

WHEREAS….Michigan ranks “dead last” among all states in revenue growth for K-12 schools since voters approved property tax and finance Proposal A in 1994. Proposal A is when Michigan citizens gave most control over school funding to the state.

WHEREAS....Michigan’s per-pupil funding revenue dropped by 15 percent in the period of 2003 to 2019, ranking 48th out of 50 states.

WHEREAS....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.

WHEREAS….The governor cut $35 million in funds for a $240 million per-pupil call to spending increase for charter schools which delayed the expansion of some intervention and support programs that help students improve on subjects with which they struggle and decrease professional development coaching.

WHEREAS....From 2003 to 2015, Michigan ranked 50th in growth in school performance on the National Assessment of Educational Performance, often called “the nation’s report card”

WHEREAS... Michigan’s African-American fourth graders rank last in the nation in reading. Michigan’s low-income eighth graders rank 46th in math.

WHEREAS...White, black, brown, higher-income, low-income – it doesn’t matter who they are or where they live, Michigan students’ achievement levels in early reading and middle-school math are not keeping up with the rest of the U.S. and world.


Operative clauses

These describe in detail, the solution you are proposing (not the problem itself; those should go in the "Whereas" clauses above).

1. Implement state-wide sin taxes to reduce the use of harmful addictive substances, while raising money for the education budget. 

2. Place sin taxes on e-cigarette products only. This also combats the increasing problem of teenagers using harmful e-cigarettes and vaping products. 

3. By placing the tax on e-cigarette products that are marketed towards teenagers we are ensuring that the taxes are targeting consumers that are in a higher socioeconomic class. 

4. Tax collegiate football tickets for students and season ticket holders. People buying football tickets are in a higher socioeconomic class and therefore won’t be as penalized by the taxes.  

5. Once funds are collected, pilot a program for additional funding in two school districts. One district would be in a metropolitan area and one would be in a rural area to compare the effects in two different settings. This would provide a good representation of how implementing more funding for education would affect the entire state and not just one region. This would be the first step in implementing state-wide additional funding for the education sector.


(Add more "Resolved" clauses if necessary.)


What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?

1. Sin taxes make the poor worse off. Such taxes are regressive because their burden falls most heavily on people with the fewest options—the poor. Low-income households who continue to purchase goods that are sin-taxes will have even less money left over to spend on other items. We cannot be positive that the only demographic that purchases e-cigarettes are of high socioeconomic status. 

2. Universities might not approve taxing collegiate football tickets because it could discourage people from actually attending game. Also, we cannot ensure that only students of higher socioeconomic status are purchasing football tickets. If students of a lower socioeconomic status want to purchase tickets that are now taxed this could hurt them. 

3. Only piloting the program in two districts might not be a good enough representation of how this would affect the entire state. Additionally, metropolitan and rural areas may already be funded differently so implementing the program in these two areas may have significantly different results.

  Costs and funding: What will your proposal cost (in direct expenses, lost tax revenue, lost economic opportunity, and/or non-monetary costs)? How will you pay for your proposed legislation? Where will/could the funding for your proposal come from?  Who might object to dedicating resources to your proposal (competing interests)? 

The costs of our proposal will include the cost of proposing this legislation, the monetary increase in funds that the education budget will receive, the funds needed to employee more people/pay for more work time of current government employees to structure the funding budget and the cost of the lawsuit needed to bring this proposition to fruition. William Koski, the law professor runs the Youth and Education Law Project at Stanford University. This project provides funds to subsidize the costs of lawsuits and proposing legislations regarding education inequalities. He is already avidly involved in the current suit that students in Detroit’s primary and secondary education system have brought to fruition and supports the notion of change. He claims that he is willing to do whatever it takes to win this suit and the Youth and Education Law Project has already taken on the role of assisting with the lawsuit. The funds needed for the physical monetary increase in the budget could be collected from one of the possible solutions that we have provided. The first solution is placing sin taxes on tobacco products which contribute an average of 3.8% of a state’s total funding budget. If the tax adds $1 on to the price of a pack of cigarettes, $14.5 billion dollars will be generated. The second solution is taxing collegiate football tickets for students and season ticket holders. The University of Michigan, alone reported 91,126 season tickets sold for the 2017 season at $345. A five percent tax on these tickets would raise approximately 1.57 million dollars from The University of Michigan alone in one year.



References: Revelvent Links/Research









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