Senate passes Pavlov resolution opposing federal education overreach

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Sen. Phil Pavlov

Sen. Phil Pavlov

LANSING, Mich. — The state Senate on Thursday approved a resolution sponsored by Sen. Phil Pavlov urging the president and Congress to curb and clarify the role and authority of the U.S. Department of Education regarding state and local funding to school districts.

Senate Resolution 214 addresses new federal rules that contradict the purpose of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which is to direct more control over education away from the federal government back to local districts.

“The U.S. government telling states and local school districts how to spend their money is federal overreach, pure and simple,” said Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, which took up SR 214 on Tuesday. “We don’t need any more burdensome federal reporting and mandates on how we fund our educational system.”

ESSA requires districts to use a methodology to allocate state and local funds to each Title I school that ensures each of those schools receives at least all the state and local funds it would otherwise receive if it were not considered a Title I school.

The federal government, however, is taking this a step further by dictating how state and local funds may be distributed in schools that also receive Title I funding, which is earmarked for low-income students.

SR 214 points out that under current federal law, the Education secretary may not dictate the methodology a local school district should use in order to ensure the funding in Title I buildings is at least equal to the overall funding in the non-Title I buildings in the districts.

In addition, the Congressional Research Service interpreted federal law as not requiring equalized spending per pupil on a statewide basis, on a school district basis or on an individual school basis.

State Superintendent Brian Whiston testified in support of SR 214 before committee.

“The goal of promoting educational equity is laudable. We support that, of course, Whiston said. “But concerns have been raised that the proposed regulations do not take into account the many factors that affect building-by-building spending decisions at the local level.”

SR 214 states that school district personnel have complained that the proposed regulations would be unworkable. The American Association of School Superintendents stated that the proposed regulation “… glosses over the realities of school finance, the reality of how and when funds are allocated, the extent to which districts … have flexibility, the patterns of teacher sorting and hiring, and the likelihood that many students would experience the rule, as drafted, in a way that undermines true efforts aimed at increasing education equity.”

The following groups support SR 214:
•    Michigan Department of Education;
•    Michigan Association of School Administrators;
•    Michigan Education Association;
•    The Intermediate School Districts of Barry, Branch, Calhoun, Jackson, Lenawee, and Monroe counties;
•    Michigan Association of School Boards;
•    Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency;
•    Oakland Schools;
•    West Michigan Talent Triangle; and
•    ESA Legislative Group.

Copies of SR 214 will be transmitted to the President Obama, the president of the U.S. Senate, the speaker of the U.S. House, the members of the Michigan Congressional delegation, and the U.S. Department of Education.