By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe
The Schoolcraft school board in a July meeting approved a 2023-2024 budget which includes a $458 increase in per-pupil funding.
Finance Director Kendra Drewyor told the board the budget makes progress on a weighted-student funding formula with increases in the foundation allowance. The increase brings the total to $9,608 per pupil, a 5% increase in the grant.
The state is also providing significant one-time investments in many areas, including at-risk and special-education students and English learners. The at-risk funding formula changed to include an “opportunity index” which provides greater funding for at-risk students depending on the concentration of poverty.
At-risk funding ranges from 11.5% to 15.3%, and minimum additional funding per at-risk student is $1,115. For budget purposes, at-risk allocations are based on prior year counts. The special education foundation grant will be funded at 100% plus reimbursed costs.
Drewyor says the final agreement for transportation is “the first meaningful investment in covering transportation costs.” The state will provide $125 million for the School Transportation Fund. There are also increases to various funds at the state level for programs, including the Great Start readiness program, enrollment stabilization and universal school meals.
In an effort to attract and retain educators, the state is instituting an Educator Compensation Program, exploring a program for student loan forgiveness for school employees. The state is also increasing support for the Michigan Public Schools Employees Retirement System. In addition, mental health and school safety grants are available.
During the superintendent’s report, Rick Frens said he has examined the research and is looking into a new cell phone policy for the school buildings. He indicated that he will be forming a committee of stakeholders to guide the new policy which he expects will remove student cell phone use from the buildings.
Jenny Sportel, Schoolcraft Elementary 4th grade teacher who was in the audience at the meeting, asked who would be on the committee, stating that the decision is important and needs to be drafted “carefully and thoughtfully.”
Frens agreed and encouraged Sportel to be a part of the decision-making group.