Fund us -- Northern Michigan superintendents band together to send message to Lansing

Northern Michigan superintendents are banding together, speaking out to level the playing field for school funding.

About 15 area superintendents met at the Otsego Club in Gaylord for their monthly meeting Friday morning and their main topic was to devise a plan to have the voice of lower-funded schools heard in Lansing.

"Itâ??s time they step up and support this cause and get to equity funding, even in small measure, small steps," said Cadillac Area Schools Superintendent Paul Liabenow to a group of Northern Michigan superintendents at the Otsego Club Friday.

Northern Michigan school superintendents want one thing: fair funding. In some districts downstate, students receive $5,000 more in per pupil funding than students in, say, Petoskey, Traverse City, or Cadillac.

â??We're going to ask a couple of our Northern Michigan legislators to sponsor a bill supporting the 2X formula," says Liabenow.

The â??2Xâ?? formula gives low-based funded schools twice the amount of funding per-pupil that upper tier schools receive. The proposal was passed in 1994 to close the per-pupil funding gap, but with years of cuts, funding between low and high funded schools has instead ran parallel.

"Itâ??s unacceptable, it's something we need to address, for the second year in a row, the governor's budget does not deal with inequity, it's wrong," says Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District Superintendent Mike Hill.

The Northern Michigan Regional Chamber Alliance sent a letter to the Governor earlier this week addressing the issue. Superintendents want to use the backing of the business community as momentum.

â??It's going to require a campaign, a grassroots campaign that includes parents and businesses, like those that are represented by the Northern Michigan (Regional) Chamber Alliance, and every employee, every supporter of public education, is going to need to rally around this cause," says Liabenow.

Liabenow says he's working with bill writers and law makers to have the 2X formula come into play with incentives. Right now it doesn't. He says it will take public support, like calls and letters to Lansing, to help close the gap.

â??We're trying to do so much with so little to try to prepare our students for college readiness, so if we can be on an even playing field with other districts, that'd be a great thing," says Hill.

Friday afternoon, we talked to Michigan Senator Howard Walker.

Walker told us he supports lower-based funded schools being additionally funded with the 2X formula, and will support making the 2X formula applicable for any of the Governor's incentives to districts.