The Education System In Michigan Is Failing Our Youth

PRE-PROPOSAL 1. Media Artifact

Website: The Education System In Michigan is Failing Our Youth

  2. Persona and POV statement Persona: Persona name: Nicole Gretka

Age: 17

School/occupation: Elementary School Student

Location: Benton Harbor  

Quote: "I want to get into the college of my dreams"

 

About:

  • Puts a lot of effort in and outside of the classroom and is a very hard worker

  • Has 3 siblings who go to school in the same school district

  • Parents did not attend college at a 4-year University and work multiple jobs to keep the family afloat

Goals:

  • Get a 32 on her ACT

  • Make the varsity volleyball team

  • Get accepted into the University of Michigan

 

POV Statement:
  • User : A smart, hard-working, busy, and determined high school student...

  • Need : ...needs her school to offer advanced placement classes, get more resources, and have a quality education to help her get into the college of her dreams... 

  • Insight : ... because the school district in which she attends lacks the finances and quality of teachers to provide her with the best and most challenging education possible, forcing her to spend a lot of money outside of school on tutors in order for her to get a good enough ACT score for acceptance at the University of Michigan.
 

 

3. Potential Solutions:

SOLUTION 1: One solution to this issue could be to change the local funding for schools to something that is not based on property tax. One issue for the large gap between the funding of schools in wealthier districts, in comparison to school districts in poorer communities, is the fact that the local funding comes from property tax. The issue is, the less affluent communities have properties at a much lower value and therefore do not get nearly as much local funding. When this is the case, less affluent schools must heavily rely on state and national funding in order to have enough money to educate each student. When budget cuts at the state or national level are made, however, the schools could be receiving much less funding than what would be ideal. Schools in affluent communities on the other hand often have so much local funding from property tax that they have more than enough money for students and often can allocate extra money elsewhere to improve the school or its facilities. Another issue with the property tax model is that many students today attend schools outside of their district, with new charter schools and school of choice programs. This means those funding a school may not be the same individuals attending the school which can create an even larger imbalance in funding. I believe switching to a model in which funding is all on a statewide level would help our education system significantly. Whether this is a state income tax or a state sales tax, this would allow all of the funding to come from one source and would allow the funding to be distributed on a need basis rather than the current system in which the gap between schools in wealthy and less wealthy communities is growing larger and larger.

SOLUTION 2: Another solution to this issue would be for school spending to be on a per-student basis rather than per class. The current spending pattern favors gifted students and gives teachers the incentive to teach at more affluent schools or with more gifted students. Generally speaking, teachers are paid according to their credentials and seniority rather than the subject taught, the number of students served, or the effort required to teach the students. This creates a larger and larger divide between the competency of students in affluent compared to less wealthy school districts. A cycle is created in which more experienced teachers chose to teach at affluent schools, where the students are easier to instruct because the work they put in does not reflect their pay. Since teacher pay and funding is not dependent on the subject taught, the classes with fewer students receive more per-student funding. Fewer students tend to be in the advanced, AP, or IB classes resulting in more funding being directed towards students who are already ahead of the curve, while general classes where the students likely need more financial assistance for education are actually receiving less. In addition, experienced teachers would rather teach these advanced classes because the class sizes are usually smaller (meaning there are fewer students to deal with) and the students are usually more gifted (meaning they are easier to teach and often less work for the instructor) because they will receive the same financial compensation regardless of the class they teach. I believe that having a statewide law mandating funding to be spent in a specific way would be ideal. Although funding for schools is technically based on a per-student model, each student is not receiving this funding evenly. I believe the funding for a particular class and the pay for a teacher should correspond with the number of students in the class. This way, students are receiving the same funding regardless of the class they are in and teachers are rewarded for taking more difficult jobs in less affluent districts or with less gifted students where class sizes are often larger (since less affluent school districts often don’t have enough money to pay as many teachers as they need).

 

SOLUTION 3:  An additional solution would be for all of the funding towards schools to be restricted money. Currently, much of the money schools receive from taxes is unrestricted, meaning they must decide how to spend it. Although schools receive the estimated amount required to educate each student, from the local, state, and federal government, when this money is being received by schools that have several other things to pay for such as construction repairs, operation, and maintenance they end up having less to devote towards each student. Although schools in affluent districts often get grants and have local votes on massive construction projects that make the already nice school even nicer, it is very unlikely for this to occur in poor districts. Many of these less affluent schools struggle to keep their buildings intact or to fit all of the students in classrooms, requiring them to allocate much of their government funding to things other than education. I believe that the majority of the money coming from the government should be restricted towards the costs of paying teachers, paying for materials or instructional equipment, and paying for pupil services. I also believe the government needs to take things like construction and maintenance into account and give schools in need additional and separate funding so that it doesn’t have to come out of the money that would go towards educating the students.

 

BACKGROUND AND RESEARCH PROCESS Context

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

Proposal A resulted in a decrease in how property taxes would go towards school and an increase in sales tax from 4% to 6%, with 100% of the revenue from the additional 2% dedicated to the School Aid Fund (SAF). In addition, this proposal increased the Cigarette Tax from 25 to 75 cents per pack, with 63.4% of the increase going directly to the SAF (on August 1, 2002, another 50 cent increase was put in place, 20 cents of which was dedicated to the SAF. This tax increased again on July 1, 2004, to $2.00/pack. However, none of this 75 cent increase was dedicated to the SAF). The reduction in property taxes and the increase in State revenues for schools, which resulted from form Proposal A, changed the State/Local funding mix to a ration of approximately 80%/20%. This meant much of the funding for schools was now coming from the state after the adoption of this 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 proposal will make a difference in the public school education of students living in less affluent communities. This is because these students do not have many of the privileges that many other students, like myself, had throughout their elementary and high school years. These students are at a disadvantage when it comes to applying for colleges and looking for jobs given that their education and resources are not up to the standards of other wealthy school districts in the state. Any improvement to the education at these schools in even a single classroom could drastically change a few students' lives. 

   Requiring a minimum standard for textbooks at all schools in Michigan will ideally shrink the disadvantage gap that exists today. This requirement will ensure that, at least to some extent, all students in the state will have access to the necessary resources for them to learn the up to date curriculum of the state. It became clear through my consultations, that many schools have outdated or simply an insufficient number of textbooks for their students, putting them at a drastic disadvantage to students like myself who were able to take their textbooks home for every class and study from them each night at home.

 

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

I learned about these issues when speaking to my mom. She was involved in construction management in the past and recently she and I had a conversation about her experience when working within the Pontiac school district and worn down their buildings, classrooms, and supplies were. One of the major things she noticed in how different our school was from their's is that many of the classrooms only had about 10 outdated textbooks that the students would have to share during the class period and were unable to take home after class. This is much different from my experience in which I typically had either reading or problem homework from the textbooks in many of my classes each night, allowing me to explore the topics being taught in class more extensively in further detail. This discussion opened my eyes to how different my situation would have been had I attended a different school district, given that I attended an extremely nice school with great facilities, technology, and resources.

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

My service activity has exposed me to the broad scope of financial situations that individuals in our state and even our local community are in. My specific service activity was with Food Gatherers, as I was initially planning on doing my proposal in relation to hunger. However, I quickly realized that this community service opportunity still allowed me to gain extensive knowledge that helped with my proposal. Several individuals that worked at Food Gatherers informed me about how we fail to recognize poverty in cities like Ann Arbor that seem fairly affluent when in reality countless families in the area struggle to get food on their plates each night. This opened my eyes to not just looking at this proposal on a school district by school district basis, given that even students who attend wealthy and well-funded schools may be at a financial disadvantage that inhibits their learning. Also, some of the food deliveries we made were at schools or daycare centers. This made me realize that there is often a combination of a school with little money and their students being less affluent. In areas without well developed and funded charity programs like Food Gatherers, such as Pontiac, many teachers or schools are forced to pay out of pocket or allocate some of their limited funds towards feeding their students. As a result of this, less wealthy schools often have less additional money to put towards things like academics.

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

Website: The Education System In Michigan Is Failing Our Youth

 

Consultations

CONSULTATION 1: The first consultation I had was with an individual who had a building management position within the Pontiac school district for several years. The individual emphasized that the students at the elementary schools were always excited to be at school and well behaved. Although the students had high spirits and were enthusiastic about school at a young age, Junior High school was a much different story. There were frequent incidents of violence among students as well as disrespect towards teachers, forcing several police officers to be on duty at all times. 

    The schools were very underfunded and teachers would constantly be forced to pay out of pocket to ensure the kids got what the needed. This was even more of an issue when several of the teachers lacked the finances to do so. The school district as a whole struggled with money, books were paid for with government grants and students were not able to take them home to study because there were not enough of them. Most of the books were outdated and worn because the schools were only able to get grants every so often. In addition, supplies for classrooms were often paid for out of pocket by teachers or were donated by local businesses. 

CONSULTATION 2: The second consultation I had was with an elementary school teacher from the Bloomfield Hills school district, a much more affluent area than Pontiac. This teacher mentioned that parents in the district were very supportive and would often hold fundraisers or donate money to the school. The school had so much money from local donations and taxes that they only needed significant federal and state funding for things like special needs programs. 

CONSULTATION 3: My third consultation was with a member of the school board in the Clarkston Community Schools district. She was heavily involved in finances at the school and explained how this money was managed and where it came from. Many of the improvements to the school district in recent years including new technology, building improvements, a new football field, and more came from bonds in which the idea was proposed on the communities ballot and voted for approval meaning the community was willing to pay more taxes to pay back the bond in order for these improvements. In addition, the school district in which she worked received significant money for projects like this from fund-raisers in the community or donations from wealthy individuals or businesses. She spoke about how this is much different from other less wealthy districts in which many of the families are struggling financially and are, therefore, opposed to paying higher taxes or donating to the schools. 

 

Reaction or advice from a Topic Coordinator:

Topic coordinator Devin McIntyre contributed multiple critiques that helped me with my proposal significantly. First, he suggested that I use a student for my POV and persona statements rather than a teacher. I solicited this critique because I believe he is correct that using a student for this example would be more persuasive considering students are the ones really suffering as a result of this issue. Additionally, McIntyre recommended that I think of a solution that steers away from financing, given that these proposals are so difficult to get approved given the strict budget of our government and the drastic changes a financial change like this would entail. This advice led me to think about more creative ideas that may be smaller in scale and less major of a change but can still help with the issue at hand. This criticism allowed me to open my eyes to constructing a program that didn't completely change funding for schools in our state, while still solving some of the issues in why students are struggling in so many schools across our state. 

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.

    When I first created my media artifact my thoughts were simply concerning the issues with public schools in Michigan and how unsuccessful and underprepared our students are in comparison to other states and countries. However, after my first consultation with a manager at the Pontiac school district and after researching the current laws and statistics on school funding in Michigan, my proposal solutions became more focused on changing the way schools in Michigan are funded. Nevertheless, after input from topic coordinators and after my meeting with Michael Fahy I began to realize how difficult it is to get approval on a proposal based on funding. For this reason, I began to explore other possible ways that education in Michigan can be improved, specifically for students in underprivileged communities. My second and third consultation, both with faculty at wealthier school districts in Michigan, opened my eyes to the gap between how much more money wealthy districts end up with in comparison to poor school districts. Although the second consultation didn't go as well as I had hoped and I didn't receive a ton of super helpful information, my third consultation sparked some ideas for me in ways that we can improve upon the current system. This consultation allowed me to realize that much of the differences between a wealthy and less wealthy school district is not just due to things like income tax government funding, but is also largely a result of the community involvement and support. The third consultant I met with worked within the Clarkston School District, in which the majority of their money for improvements to the school did not come from the government but came from donations, community fundraisers, and taxes that the local community voted on paying. For this reason, I believe that the best way to assist schools that could use the funding for improvements, supplies, and technology is not to change the way they are funded by the government but to create an incentive for funding from people and the community. This inspired me to include a fundraising/donation aspect to my proposal (called "Textbook for Every Student") that solves some of the issues with less affluent schools having the funds for their students to have the resources they need to succeed. 

     My reason for shifting my proposal towards specifically focusing on textbooks, as opposed to my initial ideas on changing funding in the state, was because of the input I received concerning how difficult a significant state funding change would be to implement. I believe that focusing on one small aspect of education, such as textbooks, is a way to improve our current system and solve some of the flaws existing in it, without requiring a monumental change to the current budget or system. 

Author contributions:

Trey Roy completed the entirety of this proposal.

FORMAL PROPOSAL Preambulatory clauses

These set up the PROBLEM, but not the solution.

WHEREAS.... a 2018 study estimated it would cost $9,590 to educate a typical Michigan student to meet performance standard the state is poised to spend $7,871 per pupil this year under the 2019 budget signed by former Gov. Rick Snyder, which is an increase in funding compared to recent years.

WHEREAS.... in 2015 4th grade Michigan students placed 41st in the country in reading proficiency.

WHEREAS.... in 2015 8th grade Michigan students tested 37th highest in the country in math proficiency.

WHEREAS... per-pupil funding in Michigan has dropped 7% between 2005 and 2014 while the rest of the United States increased the funding has increased by 3.6%.

WHEREAS... affluent schools like Bloomfield Hills have so much local funding that they have $12,064 per student where other districts are forced to use the minimum per-student allowance of $7,871.

WHEREAS... Detroit Public Schools use textbooks that are so old and out of date that when it comes to statewide tests the students must take it without seeing much of the material they're being tested on.

WHEREAS... While students at public schools in Pontiac are not allowed to take home textbooks because there aren't enough for each student, students at Clarkston Community Schools are able to take home up to date textbooks in each of their classes.

 

(Add more "Whereas" clauses if necessary.)

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. Schools will be mandated to obtain enough textbooks for each student to take home each day.

2. Schools will be permitted the option to fulfill this requirement with online textbooks, if and only if the school provides a technology device for each student to take home each day that can be used to access these resources.

3. Schools will have 3 academic years from the announcement of this requirement before measures will be taken for those who are not satisfying the requirement. This will allow schools to save money and budget in preparation to buy textbooks that will satisfy the requirement once that 4th year is approaching.

4. The state will be required to create a highly qualified and informed committee in which, each year, a list of textbooks is created for each class offered in the state. The committee must formulate a list of books that are up to date and satisfy the curriculum of each class each year. When textbooks are determined by this committee to be out of date and no longer satisfy the curriculum, they will not be included on the list and the classrooms would then be required to purchase new textbooks for the following school year. 

5. Members of the committee will go to each school in the state before the start of the year and conduct a check, ensuring that each school has met the requirement for the necessary resources for the upcoming school year.  

6. Implement a "Textbook For Every Student" program in which schools donate textbooks or raise money to be spent on textbooks for less affluent schools that may struggle to meet the state's requirement. Schools that donate or raise enough money to purchase 100 textbooks will be recognized as bronze donors, schools that raise enough for 500 textbooks will be recognized as silver donors, and schools that raise enough for 1000 textbooks will be recognized as gold donors. Banners will be given out to schools that are recognized as donors so that they can put this on their school and be recognized for their contribution.

7. Before the start of a given school year schools will have the opportunity to make the claim that they are unable to afford the required books for the upcoming school year. In this case, they would need to create a spending report, displaying where all the funds they have are going, and demonstrating that there is no room in their budget to buy the necessary amount of books to satisfy the state's requirement for the upcoming school year. If it is determined that the school is justifiably unable to satisfy the requirement, the schools in need should be the first priority for the "Textbook For Every Student" donations and in the case that enough donations aren't made, the state should attempt to give the school a grant that can allow them to supply a textbook for each student.

8. Each school will be required to budget for this program on their own, with the money they receive from the government. In the case that it is determined that a school that does not meet the textbook requirement was a result of poor budgeting and neglect as opposed to financial need, the government will supply them with the remaining required textbooks through grants or the "Textbook For Every Student" program. However, they will be put on probation for the next 10 years in which they must submit their budget plans to the committee, for approval, each academic year before receiving any additional funding from the state.

(Add more "Resolved" clauses if necessary.)

Counter-arguments:

What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?

1. Teachers should not be required by the state to use certain resources and teachers should decide for themselves which textbooks best match their teaching styles and will best educate the students.

a. Although teachers' intentions are good, it is not unreasonable to have them choose from a list of textbooks to use for instruction in their class. The committee in charge of forming the list of possible textbooks to use will be well informed and most qualified to determine which textbooks will allow the students to be most successful and learn the most essential information for each subject.

b. The list of possible textbooks to choose from will give each teacher enough options to choose a textbook that suits their teaching style but still satisfies the curriculum determined by the state. Although it may take teachers a few years to get accustomed to teaching with a new textbook, they will get used to it quickly and the fact that every student in the class will now have a textbook to take home will lighten the load on the teachers given that each student will have a suitable resource to reference for the class.

2. Less wealthy school districts will need to allocate money elsewhere and will struggle to find room in their budgets to meet this requirement.

a. The probation system will ensure that only schools that budget poorly will be punished for not satisfying the requirement of the state.

b. In the case that the school proves that it is simply unable to keep up with the textbook requirements each year, it should become clear to the state that this given school is not receiving enough funding for education and they should receive a grant for textbooks.

c. The "Textbook For Every Student" program will take some of the financial burdens off of the state and prevent any significant increase in our state spending on education. This program will avoid wasteful spending by ensuring that textbooks in the state that satisfy the state's requirements are not going unused.

3. Textbooks should not be the focus and there are other resources or programs that our state could spend money on that would better improve our education system.

a. Adequate textbooks are a necessity for proper education and this should be the top priority when it comes to where the per-student funding is being directed towards.

b. Textbooks provide a framework in which the teachers will be able to structure their classes and students will be able to structure their learning in a way that most effectively allows understanding of the curriculum.

c. This proposal will allow students without access to technology to study and learn on their own outside of class if they have the desire to learn more. One of the biggest issues with the system today is that there are students who are passionate about education and have the desire to learn more but simply do not have access to the resources to do so.

Costs and funding:

     Many may argue that this proposal would be too expensive to implement. However, my proposal does not require an increase in the money the state will need to budget towards education. An increase in per-student funding will not be made as a result of this requirement. The College Board estimated that students can expect to spend between $1240-$1440 on textbooks for the 2018-2019 academic year. This is only a small fraction of the funding per student a school receives each year which is currently a minimum of $7871 per student and is proposed to increase for the next school year. Therefore, this plan should be more than manageable financially given that $1440 is only 18% of the current minimum money a school will have per student. In addition, many of the textbooks used in primary school are less expensive than those used in college meaning the $1440 is likely an overestimate. I believe textbooks should be the primary concern for the per-student costs each year as they are the bare minimum requirement for a proper education. In addition, textbooks would not need to be purchased every year, only often enough to keep them up to date.

     Also, the inclusion in the proposal of the opportunity for schools to attempt to keep up with requirements with digital textbooks as opposed to hard copy textbooks is a way to prevent more spending long term. The digital textbooks are often significantly cheaper, meaning if a school elects to budget in a way where they provide technology for students to take home each day rather than constantly buying new textbooks when they go out of date they could likely avoid expenses long term given how long and relatively inexpensive it would be to provide technology for each student in the school. For example, new 64GB (largest storage possible) iPads today cost only $699. If a school were to buy enough iPads for each student to take home they would spend less money than the estimated cost of providing textbooks for every student and would be spending less money on the digital textbooks than hard copy ones over time.

     The inclusion of the probation system in the proposal combats poor budgeting among schools which is a big problem in our state today given that schools have little instruction or requirements as to how they must spend their money. This should push schools to better budget their money and ensure that they are prioritizing spending on the most important resources such as textbooks. In the case that some schools must receive a grant from the government for textbooks or must receive donations from other schools with the "Textbook For Every Student" program because they simply cannot pay for enough textbooks for each student, it is an indicator and should prove to the state that not all of the schools are receiving the necessary funding they need and the budget for education should be adjusted appropriately.

     The inclusion of the "Textbook For Every Student" program in my proposal will also reduce the overall spending in the state on textbooks. Many schools already buy textbooks at a rate that is more frequent than what will be required by this new proposal. For this reason, schools that have more than enough money will be able to assist schools that may struggle to meet the requirement by donating resources that are not yet out to date and could be put to good use. This will reduce overall wasted money in our state on textbooks and should reduce the overall budget necessary for this proposal. 

      The state will also have to pay the salaries of council members in charge of formulating a list each year and checking to ensure schools are following the mandate. The council will be small to ensure that the expenses towards this are not too high but will be large enough to ensure that there are enough differing viewpoints to come to a conclusion that satisfies the beliefs and needs of everyone.

References:

https://www.freep.com/story/news/politics/2019/09/19/michigan-school-aid-budget-special-education/2373445001/

https://www.mlive.com/education/2014/04/a_brief_history_of_proposal_a.html

https://www.bridgemi.com/detroit-journalism-cooperative/detroit-schools-outdated-curriculum-sets-students-fail-audit-finds

https://www.edmit.me/blog/how-much-does-the-average-college-student-spend-on-textbooks

https://www.michigan.gov/documents/propa_3172_7.pdf

https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/education/2019/01/23/msu-study-michigan-dead-last-funding-growth-k-12-schools/2656393002/

https://www.freep.com/story/opinion/contributors/2019/05/26/michigan-education-reform/1226760001/

https://www.mlive.com/news/2018/05/michigan_beyond_education.html

https://www.bridgemi.com/special-report/michigans-k-12-performance-dropping-alarming-rate

https://www.renaissance.com/2018/03/22/blog-math-milestones-critical-role-math-achievement-student-success/

https://annarborchronicle.com/2013/12/29/column-is-public-education-a-charity-case/index.html

https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2019/08/28/special-ed-concerns-loom-large-after-flint.html

 

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




 

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Total votes: 4

Contributors