Muskegon Superintendent Claims State Keeps More Education Funding Under New Model

Andrew Trzaska | October 16, 2012

Muskegon Public Schools superintendent Jon Felske criticized the State of Michigan’s new student funding model at Tuesday’s board of education meeting, which he claims gives less money to districts and more money in the hands of the state government.

Michigan school districts previously received a majority of their annual funding based on student enrollment on their fall count day, which generally takes place in October.  The remainder would be distributed to districts based on their attendance numbers at the yearly spring count day in February.  Felske indicated this division used to be roughly 90/10 for October/February.

Under the new system, per-pupil funding will be assessed on a near-daily basis. According to Felske, a student has approximately 180 days of school a year, and student funding would be received by districts based on how many of those days they are enrolled in a specific district.

Felske expressed two issues with the systems. First, he claims funds are withheld by the state when students switch districts.   Referring to them as “transient students”, he noted these students might move mid-week and miss several days of school between leaving one district and starting at another. The pupils in question start in hypothetical district A, and eventually end up in district B, but neither A or B will get the dollars for those days the student is somewhere in between them.

Felske sees this as unfair because districts are penalized for something he considers inevitable.

“We have thousands of transient students because parents move… the state of Michigan will get to keep that money in their pocket. [District A and District B] used to split that money,” said Felske. “Thank you, State of Michigan”

Felske expressed his preference for the old 90/10 system, where a single student is fully funded across both districts, instead of some fraction of his or her full funding if she or he misses a few days.

Second, he claims the system of formulas the state provides to track each student’s funding will require a lot of manpower to calculate for all students in the district.

I’m not sure who’s going to do that, but we’ll have to do it because we have to chase down every penny,” said Felske. He added sarcastically: “They’re sure making our jobs easier.”

Felske is a known critic of many education legislation and policies at the state and federal level.  In his time thus far in Muskegon, he’s spoken out against straight funding cuts, unequal funding among districts, and changes in graduation requirements.

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst