State House get message from school leaders: Our students deserve fair funding

Buddy Moorehouse
Mar 19, 2020 8:57:53 AM

After watching their students targeted last fall with a $240-per-pupil budget veto, some charter school leaders came to Lansing earlier this month with a message: Treat our students the same.

Carletta Counts, the superintendent of West Village Academy in Dearborn, and Sandy Maxson, the superintendent of the da Vinci Institute in Jackson, testified before the State House School Aid Subcommittee on March 11, as the state begins to consider the K-12 School-Aid Budget for the 2020-2021 school year.

"Just a few months ago, charter schools nearly lost out on $35 million through a budget veto,” said Counts, whose school serves a population of mostly Detroit and Inkster students, 91 percent of whom are students of color. “Thanks to the 15,000-plus charter advocates who spoke out, the funding was restored, and the charter school students got their much-needed resources, like the traditional public school students."

Counts said it should never happen again that students are discriminated against simply because of the type of school they attend.

It is important we have equitable funding for all Michigan students in our state-aid budget. I must state the obvious – that all schools in Michigan have their own unique identity and needs, whether it is the school’s mission and vision, school colors, their special ed population, academic class offerings and community makeup. In my opinion, those differences should not hinder the ability to have equitable educational opportunities and funding. Not equal, but equitable. All students need that funding to succeed.”

- Carletta Counts

Maxson, whose school in Jackson serves a population that includes a large number of students in poverty, said her students are coming to them with far more trauma in their lives than ever before. That alone requires fair funding from the state, she said.

We can’t ask for a millage to pay for our buildings or technology. So to provide a unique learning environment, it is critical that our state aid be equitable, because we already use a portion of it for those expenses. We have 80% Free and Reduced Lunch and over 20% special education. At da Vinci, we believe in small class sizes to serve that population.

- Sandy Maxson

Both school leaders stressed the idea that all students – whether they attend a traditional or charter public school – deserve to be treated the same.

Counts closed her testimony by quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

The entire committee hearing is available for viewing here.

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