Reference to a current Michigan bill or law that relates in some way to your proposal:
The Michigan Tax Amendment (Proposal A) 1994
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 aims to decrease the overall gap in education achievement positively correlated with parent household income and socio-economic status. The goal is to increase the average of educational success of students who are faced with disadvantages of low income households. Decreasing the educational quality gap is a goal that will be useful to students who are suffering from a lack of quality education. By bringing awareness and reform to the issue of low income districts, lessening the disparity will allow for more opportunity in lower class families.
How and where did you learn about the issues underlying your proposal?
We came across the issues by looking through scholarly articles and published government documents and attempting to identify any changes that could promote overall educational equity. Coming across multiple sources made us realize the disparity in educational quality and specifically focusing on the allocation of funds based on state levels rather than district levels helped us reach our proposal. We also talked to a social worker, an education advocate and teacher, and a government budget agent to help us professionally develop a politically efficient solution to our issue. Interacting with people directly involved in the public school district made us realize that there is a problem with students who do not have many resources.
How has your service activity influenced your thinking about this proposal?
We had the opportunity of working with students who are faced with some difficulties outside of school, such as low family income that is not consistent. The problem with this is that it becomes so much of a burden on students, it eventually affects their performance in school. Besides the clear resource issue that we discuss later on, we felt the factors of a child from a low income household were not comparable to those of someone who does have the resources. Therefore, we decided to look deeper into the problem.
Working directly with students in lower income communities exposes you to the reality of the achievement gap in education. We believe that we can help these students tremendously through a realistic income rearrangement and school initiatives. Working in school districts that do not have the same resources as others made us realize that the correlation of low income families and education performance was evident.
Additionally, interacting with low income 10th grade students who are reading at a 3rd grade level made us realize this problem is long term and needed to be addressed immediately. Our service activity mostly helped point out that school involvement was necessary through social welfare programs.
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.).
Amy Swis - Social worker at Dearborn High School – Masters of Social Work from the University of Michigan
First and foremost, Amy mentioned the importance of engaging kids and their families in school. Getting parents directly involved through the implementation of questionnaires and surveys would prove to be useful. Expanding school activities and learning to include out of school activities like creating a library card, balancing a checkbook, and getting a loan are things that can reduce the out-of-school burdens. We can also help parents with budget balancing because lower income areas tend to have higher auto-insurance rates, less and more costly access to health care, and other social expenses and or benefits. She made it extremely clear as to the disadvantages that face low income families and students. Because this has such a toll on kids at home, it affects their performance in school as well. We could also establish life coaches for every 10 or so students to make it economically feasible and empirically effective. Lastly, we should get the parents and students involved with the community. This connection is a very great advantage for anyone. Hold fundraisers, food runs, community debates, speeches, and BBQ’s.
Rajah Smart - Michigan Department of Education: Budget
Mr. Smart mentioned some financially eye-opening things that helped our proposal. When we asked him what the problem was, he said clearly, “Proposal A.” Although he mentioned it was better than the previous education law, it still was not enough. He mentioned the resources are not there for some lower income areas and it needed to be changed quickly. This led to our second conversation with him regarding our idea of a statewide board:
Funds for Michigan school districts are mostly state, but some federal related. From Proposal A of 1994, districts have control over the allocation of funds in the local public schools. Because school districts differ in demographics, some areas educational quality is higher than others. Also, lower income areas often lack resources compared to posh areas. Higher taxed areas will naturally have more resources in school districts for teachers and students. Because some areas do not contain the same amount of resources, whether in tax funds or educational quality, they will naturally be behind than other districts. There is a clear disparity primarily due to the demographics issue that each district holds. Rajah pushed back on a couple of our topics. He mostly explained that there needed to be someone in charge of a state level allocation board. Also, he mentioned that there would be a group of people who disagree with these policies (mostly higher income areas) so we made sure to address these issues and make it more feasible and likely.
Even more, Mr. Smart mentioned that a state board will be beneficial in conducting more research about the demographics and school performance issue. He mentioned that this information is not so readily available and it was about time someone come along and take an interest in such an issue. For that, we continued with our proposal solution and we hope to contact Mr. Smart afterwards to gain some more feedback.
Greta Furlong - Educational Advocate and Teacher
Mrs. Furlong was a good person to talk to regarding the requirement of resources for students who are behind in class. She mentioned that students who are in high school require even more resources just to get them back up to speed. Because the brain is not developing as quickly as it was in youth, it is more difficult to explain many basic mathematical concepts. Now, the extra resources are costly and school districts have to pay that extra portion. Moreover, she mentioned how this consistent process is more costly and if we rid of the root of the problem, it will be a huge cost saver for the Department of Education.
Low income students make up a significant portion of several classes. Because their reading, writing and math skills are so far behind, these students require extra resources to keep them close to their peers. These extra resources are 1. Expensive to keep in the schools and 2. Sometimes not available in many school districts. Also, low performing students are going to require more 1-on-1 time, causing even more resources to be required. With that in mind, Mrs. Furlong focused on the point of starting programs earlier in school, rather than waiting until high school to try and solve this issue.
Describe the specific issue or problem, being sure to provide sufficient context so that someone less familiar with the issue has a sense of the bigger picture, but know that your focus here is on a more detailed spelling out of the specific problem or issue that you’ve identified. (250 words minimum)
The problem that we have identified here is that low income has a major impact on education. Kids who are born into homes with income levels below average are less likely to succeed. In addition, people who are born into higher income level homes tend to identify communities with better educational standards. Unfortunately, with a major influx of students in better schools, the demand for higher paying teachers are in these more luxurious schools, leaving lower income public schools behind. The underlying problem is the lack of attraction to lower level public schools. Because the educational quality is decreasing significantly in these areas, students who do not get to choose where they go to school (lower income families) are the ones suffering. We are noticing a lack of attention being drawn to public education in this country and people who cannot afford private education will be the ones suffering. Students born into low income families should not be forced to deal with the bias in receiving education. In fact, educational being mandatory in this country should make it more equal for everyone to receive. We have noticed that low income levels play the biggest factor in student performance relative to the other uniform factors. Although our issue deals primarily with low income families and the toll it has on student performance, solving low income levels is not feasible. However, making schools more attractive and fair in quality is feasible. That is where we suggest higher performing teachers to take part in suffering public educational schools. Unfortunately, the best way to incentivise quality teachers is through pay and benefits. However, the trend that we are seeing in student performance and test scores is not something that we want to decrease. In fact, we need to ensure public education in this country is decent for all people. We both have concluded that in order to deal with the issue of low income factors in the education environment, we need to minimize the lack of quality in the public education sector. In order to do this, government needs to spread quality teachers by incentivising public schools more than already done.
Describe three reasonable, feasible potential solutions or approaches that would help address this problem.
Implementing a statewide board to determine the fund distribution. Currently, the funds are generated by districts and are then used in the public schools of those respective districts. For example, the property and sales tax from East Grand Rapids would be used for East Grand Rapids public schools. What we propose is to pool all of those funds generated at the district level and create a statewide board that determines how to properly distribute those funds. This board will have to be in charge of coming up with methods and research as to how to distribute to those districts that need it most. More details regarding the board are listed below (Operative Clauses). This solution approach will great in changing the education disparity that is clearly present. Each district clearly has income disparities, so this method will be great in reducing that gap. Pooling the funds at the state level will ensure no bias is present. Instead, funds will be distributed based on need.
Changing the way the teachers are paid. Currently, schools control the pay of the teachers which restricts teacher mobility. State will be in charge of teacher pay to allow for mobility throughout the state. Because schools are currently in charge of teacher pay, naturally the more posh areas will incentivize jobs with a large pay. Instead, if the state controls teacher pay, they will have the advantage of making sure good teachers are distributed throughout the state, especially in the areas that need it most. If the state controls the pay of the teachers, then they will not have to stay in the same district to improve their pay. This will allow the state to focus on improving areas with lower educational quality by relocating the more qualified teachers to those areas in need. The teachers may need some more incentive such as higher pay or extra employee benefits.
Increasing the social welfare programs throughout the low income school districts. Employing social workers and program coordinators will encourage student success and would help drive the concept of student progression. Providing activities outside of school is essential for student growth and we want to make sure that these programs are there for students. This will be a huge factor in turning kids away from crime and such. What is often seen in low income public schools is that the household situation for most families is not encouraging of students to succeed in school. What this social welfare program implementation will do is encourage and motivate students to perform well at an earlier stage in life. Substituting class time for social programs will increase that student motivation that is required for school. Additionally, increasing after school programs will keep students focused and deter them from participating in criminal activity afterwards. Often times, students have no alternative to social interaction outside of school and increasing this programs will encourage students to think of school as another place to interact rather than solely learning from books
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.
After reviewing with Topic Coordinator Allie Lisner, we had come up with a strategy that was more focused on the State of Michigan. Initially, our problem of educational quality was something that applied to multiple states, not just MIchigan. However, Allie mentioned that we should take a further approach into Michigan education quality and how policy can be changed at the state level. Additionally, Allie suggested to look into teacher pay in districts. After reviewing all of her comments, we decided to further this process. Looking into the Michigan Education policy, we came up with a proposal that was more feasible, and overall more interesting. Being students studying business, naturally our passion for budgeting and implementation came naturally. We decided to implement a state wide board that would be in charge of distributing funds. Pooling all of these funds was something we had not considered and we decided to run with it. Furthermore, because education is funded based on district taxes and such, naturally the more wealthy districts will have more resources and pay opportunities for teachers to continue their work. Rather than incentivizing teachers to leave, the current system creates comfortability for teachers to stay within their district and increase tenure. The impact Allie had on our proposal was extremely crucial because our proposal included a transformation of policy that was not only smart, but also feasible. Raising this concern about the Michigan way of school funding with Proposal A (Current law) allowed us to explore even more dimensions of the problem and address issues that are feasible.
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.
We think the most important part of the research process was to understand the education system and put ourselves in it. One of us had gone through public schools in Michigan, so it was naturally a problem that was known. Moreover, we felt that our approach needed to be feasible. Above all other things, it needed to be something that could be implemented tomorrow without any serious changes. We made sure that we did not mess with serious budgetary concerns. That being said, we started our actual research process:
We looked at many online scholarly articles regarding the Michigan education system and the michigan.gov site. We also did our first case discussion on Proposal A which related very well to our topic. We talked to Amy Swis who is a social worker and she contributed heavily to our school initiatives, adding many needed layers like a mentorship program and directly involving parents. Greta Furlong, an education advocate and teacher highlighted the issue of problems starting early and to focus on early childhood development.
We also contacted Rajah Smart, a member of the Michigan Department of Education who helps balance state budgets for public schools. His feedback included going over the feasibility of our solutions and the finances regarding them. Most of our research dealt with the correlation of low income and education performance, so our thinking was mostly devoted to solving this issue. After consulting each other and realizing that the solutions to the low income problem would require reform, we made sure that our solution would not necessarily require extra funds. We had come up with ideas regarding tax policy changes, but because this would affect several stakeholders, this seemed like a dead end.
Also, tax reform is not easily implemented. Instead, we wanted to make this process as simple and feasible as possible. That being said, we reasoned that a reallocation method would serve as the best option. After coming up with that, we ensured that taxes would still be raised on the district level, but they would be allocated on the state level for educational purposes only. Basically, our thought process in this proposal was to make a solution that was feasible and will prove to be useful in the long run. With that, we came up with the strategy to allocate funds on the state level rather than district level because we noticed the problems from the income levels in certain districts.
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.?
Shabir - I researched current school funding policy and looked through many scholarly articles to identify the problem and find a potential solution. We found many articles linking parent household income with educational success and surprisingly, this way universal. We identified the problem which stemmed from the way funding is collected for public schools and was directly involving teachers. I realized that the way public schools are funded is inefficient and could be done in a way that increases student equity. We then contacted three consultants and garnered feedback that helped shape our solution that we are proposing today. After many talks with consultants, and even more meetings, we edited our solution and concluded that the school funding system should be reinvented and other school initiatives should be taken to help the kids. The state should take over the funding for schools and accumulate all education related taxes and redistribute the money equally or what it deems necessary.
Nauman - I researched current school funding methods. Also, how low income plays a role in determining a student's likely outcome. I looked at articles and research done by others regarding low income and education correlations to come up with the problem associated with low income students in public schools, particularly in K-12. We both realized the issue dealt with lack of resources at the public education level, especially with teachers. After furthering our research, we each came up with individual solutions. One of the solutions I came up with was regarding teacher quality and to redistribute it based on performance. Creating an incentive to for teachers to leave districts and recreate equality was essential to our overall proposal. After speaking with our consultants, we realized how we wanted to approach our proposal and what needed to be changed. We both conducted a proposal dealing with the reallocation method at the state level versus the district level. We both came up with another solution regarding social welfare programs. Both of our ideas merged and we realized that social welfare is something that is lacking in Michigan and is essential to keep students in school. After gathering all of our thoughts, we both sat down for hours and created our proposal by bouncing ideas off of each other. With that, we finally created a proposal that was reasonable and encouraging. The proposal writing was done equally between us as was the thoughts and solutions behind them.
This is your final proposal language, submitted for consideration by your peers and potential inclusion in the MSC Platform.
These set up the PROBLEM, but not the solution.
WHEREAS…One out of every 6 people are living in poverty in Michigan as of 2016, a 17% increase from the previous 5 year period. Although median household income increased, when adjusted for inflation, it was down 8.7%.
WHEREAS.... The State funding gap between the lowest and higher funded schools is on average about $1000 per student, per year. There are 377 school districts that get roughly $7,026 per pupil versus another 117 districts that receive $8,049 per pupil. The wealthiest districts receive even more than that as of 2016.
WHEREAS.... For each low income urban student, the required spending is 2 to 2.5 times that for more affluent students to reach the same academic level achievement, according to a Senior Economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
WHEREAS.... The poorest district in Michigan (Godfrey-Lee) had 51.1% of 4th grade students proficient in reading and 20.5% proficient in math, whereas the richest district (East Grand Rapids) had more than 95% of 4th grade students proficient in reading and 79.9% of 4th grade students proficient in math. (As of 2015)
WHEREAS… Less than 5% of High School Michigan Merit Exam (MME) takers were proficient in Godfrey-Lee, unlike East Grand Rapids that had 52.6% of proficient students. (As of 2015)
WHEREAS… A preponderance of studies indicates a strong link between low income and lower test scores, therefore lower graduation rates among the lower class students.
WHEREAS…Children from low income families hear as many as 30 million fewer words by the age of 4 than their higher income peers. Language acquisition occurs exponentially from birth to the age of 4, thus it is essential kids are exposed to more words.
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. A board shall be implemented as a part of the Michigan Department of Education. This board shall remain constantly updated with the education budget and funds available for distribution. This board should be prepared to take on such a project with undivided attention on this allocation of funds. Finally, this board will be required to meet quarterly to ensure all discussion topics are heard and considered.
2. That there be established a state board that determine the allocation of the education funds. The board shall be in charge of conducting district research, coming up with results and concluding with allocation methods for every year. Research includes, but not limited to, demographic and standardized testing performance for the year. The board will then discuss results and come up with solutions to combat the education disparity. After gaining district results, the board shall determine an allocation method to properly distribute the education funds. The board will repeat this process every fiscal year to ensure allocation methods are up to date.
3. This established board will consist of the following positions: A finance manager to manage the funds efficiently, 3 people who are qualified to assess education with credentials and experience in education quality (conducting research, explaining results and which areas to focus on) and 3 voted representatives from various school district boards who contain perspectives of the different types of income demographic classes (i.e one from Godfrey-Lee (lower income area), one from Cedar Springs (middle income area) and one from East Grand Rapids (high income area)). There shall be a head of the board who is in charge of initiating public meetings and leading the group as the chair of the education department.
(Add more "Resolved" clauses if necessary.)
What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?
- Why should families in higher income areas be forced to have less education quality in their own districts? Aren’t they entitled to a top-notch public education system?
- Why should the students of parents who pay more through taxes be subject to equal or less certified teachers?
- How is the new allocation method and school welfare programs going to be paid for/implemented?
- Is this proposal encouraging higher income students to attend private schools? If so, why should a higher income family be almost forced to put their kid in a more expensive school?
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)?
We ensured that our issues would be feasible and easily implemented. That being said, we decided not to focus on a monetary solution and instead focus on an efficiency issue:
Our proposed legislation is mostly dealing with a reallocation of funds based on the state level rather than district level. With that, there will need to be a board or committee in charge at the state level who properly decides how to allocate these funds. The direct expenses in this would be the salaries of the board members who take on this role. While this role is not necessarily a full time job, it will increase the workload even for existing Department of Education members. Therefore, we need to account for the increased pay. With the 2018 Education budget, we can allocate a small fraction to board member salaries/increased pay. There will be no lost tax revenue or non-monetary costs because this proposal is a change in strategy rather than tax reform. In fact, this change will create economic opportunity for the state of Michigan because of the creation of jobs involved in process of allocating funds. This work will be a long term solution that will prove to be beneficial for Michigan residents.
With assistance of the Department of Human Services, the community and schools can help develop affordable social welfare programs.
These can include websites or other information you have found about the issue.