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Superintendent’s Corner: Education Funding, District Goals and More

Superintendent Shawn Lewis-Lakin shares his thoughts on Gov. Rick Snyder's recommendations for K-12 school funding and more.

Credit: Royal Oak Schools
Credit: Royal Oak Schools

The following information was provided by Royal Oak schools chief Shawn Lewis-Lakin.


Education Funding:  This week, Governor Snyder presented his recommendation for K-12 school funding for the 2014-2015 school year.   Some highlights of that proposal are:

  • The Governor’s proposal continues to provide direct state funding for a portion of the Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System (MPSERS) accrued liabilities. This is preferred over alternatives that might increase local district funding only to have such increases be offset or more than offset by higher mandated contribution amounts from local districts for these accrued liabilities. 
  • The Governor’s proposal contains an increase in the foundation grant or per-pupil funding, our primary revenue source. For Royal Oak, this increase would be $83 per student.  While welcome, it is important to view this increase in the context of what has occurred since 2008. In the 2008-2009 school year, Royal Oak Schools received $9,340 per student, through a combination of 20j grant funds (which were eliminated in 09-10) and the foundation allowance (which was reduced for all schools by $470 per student in 11-12). In 2013-2014, Royal Oak Schools are receiving a foundation grant of $8,638 per student, just over $700 per student less than in 2008-2009.
  • The majority of our revenue is based on two factors:  the per-pupil foundation allowance and our overall district enrollment. Even with per pupil increases, when our enrollment declines, our district revenue is lowered.  

This past Sunday, the Detroit Free Press published what I found to be a helpful and fairly even handed analysis of the competing claims being made regarding education funding over the past four years. I encourage you to be informed regarding state policy decisions around K-12 school funding.   

District Goals:  Our district vision is to be “a community of excellence.”  As we continue to frame our work, we have been working on the articulation of district goals.  In the fall, this work was a part of agendas for our District Improvement Team, Learning Council, Administrative Council, and Board of Education. Through these groups, various stakeholders in the district – parents, teachers, administrators, and board members – have been involved in the process. The result has been the adoption by our Board of Education of four district goals:

  • Student Achievement: Student Achievement for Royal Oak students will exceed nation, state, and county norms.
  • Student Growth: Each individual student will achieve at least one year's worth of growth for a year's worth of instruction.
  • Community: School and community success are inter-related and active school-community partnerships are essential to both; therefore, we will work to strengthen and increase school and community partnerships.
  • System: Royal Oak Schools will responsibly optimize the use of resources for improving student learning.

Together, I am confident that we will meet these goals.   In adopting these goals, the Board of Education committed to reviewing them on no less than an annual basis.  A working document that provides additional information regarding our district goals, including metrics that will be used to monitor progress toward goals, objectives, and strategies for meeting the goals has been developed.  This document is intended to be dynamic and will be updated on a regular basis.   

ROHS Transition Information:  Planning is underway to welcome the class of 2018 to Royal Oak High School.   For more information about ROHS and transition plans for students who will enter 9th grade next fall from Royal Oak Middle School or other public or private schools, please click here

Family Information Updates:  Are you changing your e-mail address?  Do you have a new phone number?  You can edit your contact information or change your password to something you'll remember at the MISTAR ParentPortal.   If you are moving, you are not able to update your address using the Parent Portal.   All address changes must be made with the district central enrollment office which is located at 1123 Lexington Blvd, Royal Oak, MI  48073.

Reading:  According to a recently released Pew Research Report, 76% of American adults 18 and older said they read at least one book in the past year.  This report also indicated that “among all American adults, the average (mean) number of books read or listened to in the past year is 12 and the median (midpoint) number is 5 – in other words, half of adults read more than 5 books and half read fewer.”   One of the best predictors of a student’s reading ability is the amount of reading that occurs in the child’s home.  Students value what they see the adults in their lives doing.   If you are among the 24% of American adults who did not read a book last year, I encourage you to read, if not for yourself, then for your child.   Our Royal Oak Public Library is a great place to find books.   Visit the library on-line at www.ropl.org

Finally, please know that, along with you, I am eagerly awaiting a reprieve from this winter weather.   I have been assured that spring will arrive!

Ed Callahan February 07, 2014 at 08:53 PM
So basically you made permanent budget decisions in 2008 with grant money that was going to disappear in 2009. That was temporary money that should have never been treated as permenant revenue. The $470 reduction should have been subtracted from your 2007 number to represent the change in funding. Your press release is purely political.
Keith Wissman February 08, 2014 at 06:45 AM
For the four district goals, what will you measure and how will you do the measuring to see if the goals have been met? Goals without measurables are only dreams.
Donald Harvey February 08, 2014 at 12:21 PM
20j funding was part of the promise to districts like Royal Oak when proposal A was approved in 1995. It was not one-year grant money. When these funds were eliminated by a democratic governor and legislature in 2009-2010, it was not one-time money that was being cut. The $470 cut in 11-12 made permanent a $170 cut carried over from the previous democratic administration and added $300 to it. Over the past six years, decisions by both democratic and republican administrations have reduced operating funds available for classrooms in Michigan. Hopefully, Governor Snyder's proposal can be the beginning of a bipartisan recognition that it is time to reverse this trend.

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