News Story

Whitmer Vetoes Funding Hike For Schools That Enroll More Poor Kids

Most at-risk students here attend charters, which mostly outperform district schools

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has vetoed a $240 per-pupil increase in state funding for public charter schools, according to the Michigan Association of Public School Academies. The same $240 increase was left in place for conventional district schools.

Whitmer used her line item veto power to remove a total of 147 spending items funded by the state budget passed by the Republican House and Senate last week. In a press release, the governor said she took the action to protect “classroom spending for our children.”

The cuts are significant because the public charter schools that will be most affected enroll a larger proportion of economically disadvantaged students than regular school district schools. According to state data, 75% of Michigan charter school students are eligible for free or reduced lunches, and so are deemed “at risk” students. In contrast, just 47% of the students enrolled in conventional district schools are in that category.

Research produced by independent scholars has repeatedly shown that overall, disadvantaged children enrolled in Michigan’s public charter schools make better academic progress than their peers in conventional public schools. Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, or CREDO, released a 2015 study that found charter school students in Detroit received the equivalent of a few weeks to as much as several months of additional learning in reading and math compared to students at Detroit’s conventional public schools. In that study, CREDO said that Detroit’s charter schools could serve as a model for other communities.

Earlier, CREDO released a 2013 study on all Michigan charter schools, and it found that charter students did better than their peers in conventional public schools. CREDO reported that charter schools students received an equivalent to about two extra months of gains in reading and math each year.

“Gov. Whitmer just told 150,000 Michigan students that she doesn’t value them as much as other students, and that’s outrageous,” said Dan Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, in a press release. “Charter schools are mostly located in the state’s most challenging urban centers, in cities like Detroit and Flint, where students need help the most. It boggles the mind that Gov. Whitmer would choose to directly target those students, and tell them that she values those students less. I would invite Gov. Whitmer to visit a school in Detroit or Flint, to look those students directly in the eyes, and tell them that she doesn’t feel they’re worth as much.”

Quisenberry continued: “The Governor said that her actions are ‘a reflection of our values.’ Well, playing politics with our children is not a reflection of the values of Michigan’s parents, students and teachers. We need to stop playing politics with our children and start fixing education in Michigan. Every Michigan child deserves to be funded equitably.”

Tiffany Brown, spokeswoman for the governor, didn’t immediately respond to an email for comment before this story was published.