Flint Community Schools move toward pursuit of special education funding

The following press release was provided to East Village Magazine (EVM) by Tarajah Ramsey at Lambert, the public relations firm for the Flint Community Schools (FCS)

As EVM Education Beat reporter Harold C. Ford notes, the news is significant.

“The bottom line is that FCS and a few other districts are going to get more funding for their sped [special education] children.  The part of the very complicated formula–that included the general student population thereby favoring larger districts–will be dropped from the formula,”  Ford states.  As the article notes, “Approximately 22% of Flint’s students—almost twice the statewide average—have special needs and require an individualized education program (IEP).”

FLINT, Mich. – Dec. 2 – In a move that indicates progress for students receiving special education funding at Flint Community Schools and throughout Genesee County, State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice has ruled that the Genesee Intermediate School District’s Act 18 special education funding plan does not meet legal requirements, and ordered the current formula be replaced with one that is more equitable for all special education students.

Dr. Michael Rice, State Superintendent. Photo taken from Michigan Department of Education website.

Flint Community Schools opposed the method by which Genesee distributes Act 18 millage funds among its constituent schools, which averages three factors: total student FTE, special education FTE and special education head count. As a result, the formula has favored districts with higher overall student populations, regardless of the size and needs of their special education populations.

The funding issue was first brought before the Flint Community Schools Board of Education in May 2019 by the Williams Firm, the Board’s general counsel. That same month, the FCS Board of Education approved the GISD’s proposed 2019-2020 budget with the exception of the proposed Special Education Fund budget.

Flint Community Schools brought concerns to the State Superintendent in January 2020 and was directed to file a formal objection with the GISD. After an administrative hearing, which took place in June 2020, state-appointed Administrative Law Judge Michael J. St. John issued a proposal in October recommending the State Superintendent grant the objection of Flint Community Schools.

“This isn’t just a step forward for Flint Community Schools—it’s a step forward for all students in Genesee County who rely on the critical special education services schools provide,” said Casey Lester, the district’s Board President. “I am pleased that we are advancing toward a commonsense solution that puts the needs of children first.”

Approximately 22% of Flint’s students—almost twice the statewide average—have special needs and require an individualized education program (IEP). Under the new proposed formula, the GISD would average the sum of each local district’s or public school academy’s share of Genesee’s special education FTE and its share of Genesee’s special education head count, removing the general student population from the equation.

“Not only is this decision beneficial to Flint Community Schools, but to all students in Genesee County,” said Kendall Williams, President and CEO of the Williams Firm. “The revised formula ordered by the State Superintendent is a fairer formula for all of the school districts, and it addresses the intended purpose of these funds, which is to support students with special needs.”

State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice stated in his final decision that the “evidence clearly demonstrates that Genesee’s distribution of $3.8 million in Act 18 millage funds in a way that aligns with the statutory standards is of critical concern.”

“I know so many parents and guardians who are going to be relieved that their children with special needs will have the resources they need to succeed,” said Vera Perry, Flint Community Schools Board member. “I’m grateful for the hard work of the Williams Firm and Flint Community Schools administration, who identified the issue and has stayed on top of it in order to support our students.”

The state of Michigan has long underfunded special education services, and Genesee County funding for special education is among the worst in the state. As State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice stated in his summary, “In Flint’s initial budget for 2020-2021, total special education revenue was projected to be approximately $5.52 million and its special education expenses were projected to be approximately $13.76 million, for a projected shortfall of approximately $8.24 million that would have to come from the district’s general education funds.”

“Adequate funding for children with special needs is about more than dollars and cents. It equates to giving children the opportunity to have a full life and to be independent,” said Betty Ramsdell, Flint Community Schools Board member. “I’m glad to see this issue settled in a way that will address the real needs of the community, and I hope it will open doors for future opportunities to reevaluate old processes and ensure they are serving the children they were designed to serve. I appreciate the work of the Flint Community Schools Board of Education, Superintendent, the citizens of Flint and the Williams Firm to accomplish this positive step forward for students, as well as State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice for his decision.”

“It’s important that we, as public servants, continue to look critically at the resources and policies that affect the students of Flint Community Schools. The progress we have made toward achieving fair and equitable special education funding for students in Genesee County is a testament to what can be achieved when school boards, school administration and experts are focused on working together in the best interest of students.”

Under the existing formula, Flint Community Schools received $253,456 in special education funding from the GISD during the 2019-20 school year. Under the new proposed formula, the district would have received $549,409 the same year. Other school districts in Genesee County that would receive increased funding under the proposed formula include:

  • Carman Ainsworth
  • Linden Schools
  • Mt. Morris Schools
  • Kearsley Schools
  • Genesee Schools
  • Flushing Schools
  • Bendle Schools

EVM Staff – EVM can be reached at eastvillagemagazineflint@gmail.com

Author: East Village Magazine

A Non-profit, Community News Magazine Since 1976

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