Proposal on Funding of Michigan Schools

PRE-PROPOSAL   1. Media Artifact

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

2. Persona and POV statement

Persona & POV --> Here

3. Potential Solutions:

Three reasonable, feasible potential solutions or approaches that would help address this problem: Here

 

  1. Begin an after school program for at-risk schools to help even out the access to resources. It would be for elementary school children and would have various activities throughout the week to help learn valuable skills that they would traditionally learn at home or in a more well-funded district. Some of these activities include sports, arts, drama, and reading games. These activities will vary to keep the program engaging and fun for the students as a way to generate buy-in from parents, students, and teachers. It will also help to cover the various skills and aim to be an all-encompassing program to help mitigate some of this disparity in education.

 
  1. Change the algorithm for how schools are funded to include other factors such as family income, diversity of students, programs offered, special education, or number of non-native English speakers. This could help to ensure districts receive funding based on more than just the number of students. It would also incentivize districts to take all kinds of students from different backgrounds. In the article linked below, it talks about how Massachusetts was able to create a similar program, as well as some of the challenges they are facing. From previous research, Massachusetts has one of the best public school systems based on test scores. There are some other considerations with this proposal because it would be very time intensive to develop and to get right. There are a lot of potential factors to consider and determining the weight of each factor will be very difficult to determine.  

    1. Implement objectifiable standards to determine at risk students - a classification which encompasses factors mentioned above such as disabilities, English ability, previous school track record

    2. Source:

http://www.wbur.org/edify/2018/05/10/foundation-budget-chang-diaz-bill

 
  1. Offer help to districts about how to spend their money through a 5-10 yr improvement plan to allocate extra resources to underfunded and low performing schools.The program would be created to help make sure that districts are using their money most effectively. It would also help to mitigate the problem that even if districts have more money it does not necessarily mean they will be equal.

    1. Increase adequacy studies

    2. Source: https://www.npr.org/2016/05/01/476224759/is-there-a-better-way-to-pay-for-americas-schools

 
  1. Standardize GPA scale for students across public high schools in order to even the playing field in regards to college applications. As we are talking about inequalities and differences between public school districts, it is vital we talk about the discrepancies in grading scales. Grading always seems to be a place of debate because it is not uniform or objective in most instances. We found this at our own high school because they changed out grading scale to be a 4.0 scale but a 5.0 scale for AP classes. This was because our district found that many students were missing out on scholarships and college opportunities because their GPA appeared to be lower than students in other school districts.

 

Other Ideas:

  1. Vouchers for students to attend private schools

  2. Trying to think of ways to fund schools besides just count day and primarily property taxes

    1. Capping the revenue earned from property taxes to even out wealthy areas in the state, thus creating opportunity to implement new funding options

BACKGROUND AND RESEARCH PROCESS Context

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

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 program will significantly impact students across Michigan because the students involved in the program will gain access to resources that they previously did not have. It will help them to be on a similar level to their peers and will allow them to have a better chance to escape cyclical poverty. Although the program is initially geared toward elementary aged students, it will impact all ages after a few years as these students move up through the school system. This program will initially start in at-risk schools that do not have access to many of these resources, but will hopefully expand beyond this subset after analyzing its impact.

Additionally, this program will provide opportunities for older students from districts all across Michigan to be mentors to some of these students. This mentorship is an extremely beneficial experience for students to gain a wider understanding of the privilege they have. By participating to be a mentor, there will be a mutually beneficial relationship and both sides could benefit greatly.

Students in lower-income areas and high-school aged students across Michigan will experience immediate benefits from this program. Although these is an associated cost with this program, they are extremely minimal compared to the expected benefits. The program needs to be a public policy implementation because it is vital that these programs standardized and monitored for success.

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

We learned about these issues in high school doing some community service. Ashley used to volunteer at a mobile home park in her area and saw first hand the discrepancy in access to quality education for students with lower income. The students talked about how they did not have books at home or how their parents were unable to help them with their homework. Ashley participated in an after school program for these students to help them in a variety of ways. First, they were able to focus on getting their homework done and getting help where they needed it. Additionally, they gained access to mentors who were able to serve as a stable force and give them advice. Finally, they were able to socialize with their friends and adults in a safe and controlled environment after school, which allowed them to stay out of trouble.

This after school program was organized by two teachers that wanted to help these students and ran the program entirely with the help of volunteers. They brought in high school kids from the surrounding area to come once a week and help them run the program. This was helpful because the teachers did not have to do all the work themselves, and the students were able to connect with older mentors. Some of these students did not have access to peers and older students to get advice for how to be successful in school.

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

After discussions with some of the clients at the shelter, I learned about their experience growing up in the public school system. Many of them talked about how they grew up in lower income areas and how their schools were incredible underfunded. Several of them told me they dropped out of high school because that was what the majority of people who went to their schools did. I talked to them about how they feel this impacted their situations now and many of them felt they started off at a disadvantage because they did not have the access to education that many other students have. They talked about how drugs and alcohol took over at their schools and consumed the lives of many students. Through this experience I learned how difficult it can be for someone coming out of a lower income district to escape this circle of poverty. I also wondered a bit about adult education in Michigan to help these people who were not educated properly the first time, however, there are very few affordable options and it is very difficult for them to find the time to do these classes. I have learned just how important it is for us to education our students properly the first time, so that less people end up in these tough situations.

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

Ashley Gorman and Ali Ahmed's link to artifact:  Here 

Mr. Hall is currently an AP Government teacher at Rochester Adams High School. Previously, he taught at a charter school in the Pontiac district. He felt the hardest thing for these students was their situation outside of school. He said, “this isn’t an education problem. It’s a poverty problem. Unfortunately, we still have to find ways to mitigate the consequences.” These students have no stability at home because their parents often work crazy hours trying to make ends meet. If you ask students where they live, many students would say things like “I stay with grandma or I stay with mom.” This was because they often did not know where they would be living and were bouncing around. Many teachers in his school would avoid assigning any homework because they knew that it would not get done, so they focused primarily during school hours to fit everything in. The problem, however, is that this puts these students at a major disadvantage because these students are not practicing the concepts at home and are missing out on valuable time to learn.

He felt the after school program would be a great way to help with this problem. His advice was to focus on elementary level education because it is better to correct these problems as early as possible. An additional point he brought up was to try to focus on reading. There is a 3rd grade reading law that states every student needs to be reading at a third grade level or else they will be held back. The research on the efficacy of this issue does not support the law because it shows that it does not matter when a student learns to read as long as they learn the fundamentals. From his own personal experience with his son learning to read, he saw the negative implications from forcing learning unnaturally. His son was a little behind in reading, so they made him do an online program that he would read a bit and then have to answer questions online. He hated it so much that he started to hate to read and wanted to avoid it anyway he could.

This is why our program will not be mandatory and will have more than just a school component. It will aim to reach the students that really want to succeed, but do not have the resources. It will also work to create intrinsic motivation rather than this being a punishment. He also talked about how many of these kids do not have access to extracurriculars such as the arts or sports. He felt that by adding this component in between it would give students a break after their eight hours at school before trying to get them to do even more.

Lastly, he helped us with thinking through the funding of this program. He felt that it is imperative to pay a teacher to facilitate the program to ensure consistency of the program. Relying on completely volunteers can make programs less standardized and diminish the quality of the program. He thought a valid way to quantify this cost was based on the rate that teachers receive for filling in as a substitute teacher. He teaches in one of the most well-funded districts and receive $28.50 per hour. He felt this rate was too high for a program like this so perhaps $20 would be a fair rate.

CONSULTATION 2: James Macfarland (Youth In Government Liaison)

James Macfarland is a high school teacher and a seasoned liason of Youth in Government. He has experience at the regional, state, and national level for youth participation in the conference.

In our conversation, we discussed the implications of altering the school budgeting system and he shared his perspective as a teacher and as an observer of  the student conferences in Lansing. He explained that the concept of allocating funding per pupil is definitely over-generalized and can result in the perpetuation of school district trends. However, he brought to our attention that reformatting the budget to assess these at risk students would incur opposition from school district’s such as his own, in which there are significantly few students who fall under that category. These districts would not be in favor of losing funding to other schools and might even work together to lobby against this initiative.

Over the past years, James has seen a high volume of bills proposed at the annual Lansing conference regarding school budget allocation. A few years back, a bill quite similar to ours was written by one of his own students and was blocked in the House Session. He has noticed a recurring set of challenges proposed against these bills at the conference and advised some areas of focus for us in order to find success with this initiative including: source of budget, guaranteeing student improvement, and conflict with current state legislature.

The discussion with James Macfarland urged us to further explore different effects of our proposed program and flush out the categories mentioned above. It was helpful to hear the perspective of non-affected school districts and results of previous bills authored at the student level.

 

CONSULTATION 3: Leah Taubitz (Teach for America Educator in Chicago Public Schools)

Leah is a teacher in the Chicago Public School system at an at-risk school through the Teach for America program. She talked to us a lot about her experience in a struggling school with students from lower income backgrounds. She has found that it typically costs more money to teach at-risk students because they will need more resources and time. This is problematic because they are awarded less money per pupil than students in higher income areas.

She talked about how these students often have difficult situations outside of school at their homes that inhibit their ability to learn. For example, their parents may work long hours or struggle to be at home. They often do not have books at home to help facilitate further learning. Another thing that often prevents these students from being successful is that they do not learn many necessary skills at home. Some of these include learning how to control anger and handle conflict. These skills are expected to be learned at home, but many students do not get this exposure. Sometimes this is because the parents are busy at work or they may not have the skills and resources themselves. Because they do not learn these skills, there are problems in the classroom that distract from the primary class content.

Leah began to explain the idea of “social emotional learning,” as something her school is focusing on to help set their students up for success. It aims to help students learn how to properly handle conflict and to control their emotions instead of just getting angry. Something Leah mentioned was that by adding on these additional requirements it often takes away from the traditional class content.

We then began to talk about the after school program and her thoughts for how it would work and the impact it could have. She talked to us about the fact that her school does not have any sort of after school program for kids, even though her school is relatively well funded because of its at-risk status. Her students do not have access to any sports, drama, or the arts that many other kids will have access to. Playing sports and being involved in the arts have a multitude of benefits for these students when thinking about their ability to work in a team or handle conflict.

Reaction or advice from a Topic Coordinator:

You must solicit a critique from a topic coordinator, and explain the impact that advice has had on the final draft of this proposal.

We met with Alex Kubie to discuss the first draft of our proposal. From this exchange we were pushed to revise our Operative Clauses to include more specific language, brainstorm some metrics for success which correspond to our solution, and convey the rebuttals to our counterarguments within the proposal.

Each of the changes we made in accordance with Alex’s advice helped refine the proposal so that it conveys our solution more accurately. We also were advised to focus in depth on the operative and whereas clauses as these are the core of our proposal and will help us present our solution in a more meaningful way.

We also met with Austin Gould to gain an additional perspective on our proposal after making some substantial edits. He talked us through how to connect the preambulatory clauses and the operative clauses.

Additionally, he helped us to better understand how the funding for the proposal works and how to make sure that it is a proposal that is worthy to be presented. It is so important that the solutions are really build out and that we consider the funding of the proposal because that is what’s most important to the state legislature.

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.

Our research process consisted of reading online material and talking to teachers and educators in Michigan. Coming from the same high school, we had a similar understanding of how public school districts go about getting funding. As we began thinking about our legislation we decided to explore the impact of the funding mechanism referred to as Count Day on other school districts and realized there are major disparities among the success levels in Michigan schools. We pooled together articles and data which shed light on the nature of the below average school districts and came to the conclusion that Count Day alone, although sensible in some aspects, would not be able to help these districts substantially improve. One of the big roadblocks we faced was right after getting feedback on our persona. The persona we put together highlighted how parent’s top priorities are to get their kids educated, which could push them to move their kids to other districts thus making issues such as school of choice and transportation the main problem. These realizations pushed us to really consider who needs to benefit and why. We then moved forward and compiled a list of factors that would cause a school to need a higher budget, recentering our goal to providing schools an adequate budget to fulfill its students and make them college ready. Our hypothesis behind our legislation is that if schools are allocated funding based on metrics that assess the nature of their students, rather than just the quantity of their students, they will have the means to support all their students efficiently.

As we began consultations, one of our discussions with a teacher from inner city Chicago made us rethink the solution further. We realized that the increased funding for these at-risk students, although necessary, needs to be utilized effectively for actual positive results. We transitioned the proposal to implement an optional after-school program in schools with at risk students to further build skills such as social-emotional intelligence. This final addition to our proposal required us to gather new data showing that this has been done in the past and has proven successful.

Author contributions:

Please delineate--in detail--who made what contributions to the process and to the finished proposal? Who took on which responsibilities in researching ideas, drafting language, etc.?

Ashley focused on two of the consultations, how it impacts students in Michigan, and connecting to the service activity.

Ali focused on one of the consultations as well as researching current legislature and ongoing education initiatives in order to develop components of the solutions.

Both authors collectively developed the problem statements as well as the counterarguments and rebuttals.

  FORMAL PROPOSAL

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.

LINK TO PROPOSAL HERE

WHEREAS.... There is an unequal distribution of funding to schools currently based on count of students and property taxes. Different types of students require different levels of attention and resources making a funding allocation system based on # of students inefficient.

WHEREAS.... This creates an unequal distribution of funding, thus an unequal education for students in Michigan. This problem is so vast and the discrepancy is so large that some schools are forced to shut down, while others can have extensive programs.

WHEREAS.... A student in Bloomfield hills receives $12,124 versus the $7,670 per student in Detroit Public Schools.

WHEREAS…. Schools that are provided additional funding through Title 1 may not be utilizing it to improve the educational wellbeing of their students. The funding may go towards unimportant elements of the school system that are not inherently resulting in higher academic achievement.

Operative clauses

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

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED....

  1. Additional funding will be provided to school districts with at least 50% of their students falling under the at risk category. The at risk students will be identified through an assessment of categories such as first generation student, impoverished family, physical or mental disability, and non-native English speaker.

  2. The additional funding will be utilized by each qualifying school district to specifically implement a standard after school program that targets development of their at risk students.

  3. To pilot the program effectively, elementary schools with at least 50% of their student population deemed at risk will be the first schools introduced to this initiative. If results of the program are successful, the initiative can be introduced to schools with a lower percentage of at risk students (50% → 40%)

  4. The after school program will focus on reinforcing skills gained from the core curriculum and develop social and emotional intelligence in a supervised, constructive environment.

    1. The success of students from this program will be measured by their teachers who will report back behavior improvements and grades

    2. Student improvement will be assessed 4 times throughout the school year in a parent-teacher meeting

  5. The program will be ongoing and offered before and after school to accommodate schedules of parents.

  6. Schools that opt into utilizing the increased funding will need to ensure that high quality, experienced teachers are available to conduct the program.

  7. The program will not be mandatory, but will be highly encouraged for students that are struggling. There will be mandatory buy-in from parents for each participating student.

(Add more "Resolved" clauses if necessary.)

Counter-arguments:

What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?

1. Getting teachers to contribute extra time for this initiative and finding the appropriate space to accommodate student demand for the program may be difficult.

Rebuttal: The funding allocated towards this initiative will also accommodate for an increase in compensation for participating teachers. The after school program is an opportunity to have a stronger impact on the student’s lives and will be a rewarding experience for teachers involved. Further, the program will take place during non-school hours thus allowing students to utilize classroom resources with minimal conflict.

 

2. Ensuring that students are engaging with the program and improving as students and people.

Rebuttal: School attendance is a major issue in districts with high populations of at risk students. Although it is definitely difficult to ensure students will participate and learn from this program, it will be essential to engage parents in this initiative. Through the build-out of our persona, we are confident that parents want their children to succeed academically. Oftentimes, the basic offerings of the school system are simply not adequate to accommodate their children, and as busy, working parents they struggle to find positive extra-curricular activities for their students. With this program, any participating student will need to have authorization from their parent. The parent will have responsibilities in ensuring their child’s attendance is consistent.

In regards to proving student improvement, each participating student’s respective teachers will be notified to monitor their behavior and grades closely. The teachers will receive feedback forms in which they log their student’s behavior. The participating student’s parents will have to meet with the teacher or program leader 4 times throughout the school year. The macro results of the program will be assessed annually and used to justify the expansion of the program.

 

3. There is high uncertainty in assessing the optimal level of funding required to fulfill this program and recognize its benefits.

Rebuttal: During the first 3 years of the program pilot, we will be focusing on refining the funding allocation to optimally support student development and program execution. We are aware that it is difficult to decide the perfect amount to allot per student. Initially, funding will be applied on the basis of the number of at risk students at the school. The actual amount allocated per student will be determined by the results of ongoing national research and findings from Michigan school district assessments conducted by hired consultants.

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)?  

Our proposal will require funding to develop this new algothrim. We believe this will incur a one-time fee and then

Our proposal will require funding to develop this new algorithm. We believe this will incur a one-time fee and then will need to be updated every few years.

Costs

There are several key costs to consider for a successful extra school program:

  • Food for students after school

  • Transportation to accommodate for missed buses

  • Teacher compensation for spending additional time with students

  • Effects of extra use of resources such as lighting, janitorial, and maintenance costs

  • Development of curriculum for the year long program

  • Ongoing assessment of results

  • Training for Teachers/facilitators

To begin the pilot, a feasible solution to allocate funding and accommodate for these costs would be providing schools 50% more funding per student qualifying to be at risk. This funding would be solely used for the implementation of this program.

For example: A Detroit public school student would bring in $11,505 instead of $7,670. The additional $3,835 would be used for the program.

Funding

The budget to adequately support this program can come from a variety of options. One main option is increasing income tax for citizens of Michigan. Another viable short term option would be dipping into the state budget surplus which was nearly $279 Million in May of 2018. The state’s finances are the strongest they have been in several years, potentially allowing the pilot program to be funded through the surplus. If the program proves beneficial, the long term funding could come from a restructuring of school budgets through which the allocation on per pupil basis is decreased, thus increasing the budget to fund this program for all qualifying schools.

A teacher gets $28.50 per hour for substituting in Rochester community schools. As touched upon earlier, we will use $20 per hour for this program. We will need one teacher for two hours a day. The yearly cost for the program is averaged to be $5,760 per year. Our program will pilot in approximately 50 of Michigan’s most at-risk schools. The overall cost of the program will average $288,000 a year. This is less than 0.001% of the Michigan surplus budget.

References:

These can include websites or other information you have found about the issue.

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Total votes: 18

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