Funding for Third Grade Reading and Adult Education Threatened in House Budget


The House has approved its version of the 2016 budget for the Department of Education and K-12 education this week, leaving out much of the governor’s forward-thinking third grade reading initiative, and completely eliminating funding for adult education. The House also ended many “categorical” programs that are targeted to high poverty districts that are struggling academically and financially, redirecting those funds to the per-pupil school payment.

In the Senate, the Appropriations Committee adopted most of the governor’s proposed third grade reading investments, and increased funding for adult education—after years of deep cuts. The next step is Senate passage, ultimately the resolution of differences between the bills in a joint House/Senate conference committee.

Reading by Third Grade

The governor proposed to spend nearly $50 million to help turn around Michigan’s disappointing fourth grade reading scores. A recent League report shows that the ability to ready by the end of third grade is central to a child’s success in school, life-long earning potential, and ability to contribute to the state’s economy. But roughly 40% or 40,000 of the state’s third-graders read below proficiency as defined in the 2013 MEAP test.

To improve literacy, the governor proposed a range of changes, including:

Child care enhancements ($24 million in federal funds): In addition to being a critical support for working parents, child care is a potential learning environment for thousands of Michigan children. The governor proposed to increase the quality and stability of child care by: (1) allowing very low-income families to retain their child care subsidies for up to twelve months even if they receive modest raises or promotions; (2) increasing payments to high quality providers, reflecting the reality that Michigan payments have been some of the lowest in the country for many years; and (3) hiring more child care inspectors to counter damaging federal audits showing Michigan didn’t have enough inspectors to ensure children were safe.

    • House: The House approved the extended eligibility for child care services and provider payment increases, but rejected the additional child care inspectors, despite the fact that all funds for the expansion are federal, and will need to be returned to the federal government for redistribution to other states if not spent.
    • Senate Appropriations Committee: The Senate Committee adopted the governor’s child care enhancements.

Other early interventions ($25 million): The governor’s proposal for improving third grade reading included: (1) home visiting programs for at-risk families; (2) parent education pilot programs; (3) testing and professional development, along with literacy coaches for K-3 teachers; and (4) $10 million for additional instruction time for children needing the assistance.

    • House: The House committee rejected the governor’s third grade reading initiative, although the Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on School Aid noted that a work group is meeting to create a plan to improve third grade reading, with recommendations expected in the next several weeks. Because the House and Senate differ on their support for the governor’s plan, early interventions will be part of the discussions in the joint House/Senate conference committee, although it is unclear at this time if the recommendations will encompass services for families with young children (ages 0 to 5) as well as interventions in the early grades (K-3rd grade).
    • Senate Appropriations Committee: The Senate committee agreed with most of the components of the governor’s initiative, and added another $10 million for extra instructional time for students, bringing total instructional funding to $20 million.

Additional funding to districts with high numbers of children at risk of educational failure ($100 million): If adopted, the governor’s recommendation to increase At Risk funding for schools would be the first significant increase since 2001. Districts are given funding based on the number of low-income students eligible for free meals, so it is a valuable source of support for districts struggling with high numbers of low-income children.

    • House: The House committee rejected the governor’s recommendation to increase At Risk funding by $100 million, and deleted language defining which children would be eligible. Instead, districts could only receive their current level of funding next year if they implement a specific instructional model—the Multi-tiered System of Supports.
    • Senate Appropriations Committee: The Senate committee included the additional $100 million for At Risk, and specified that 50% of that increase must be spent on third grade reading initiatives.

Adult Education

The governor did not propose to increase funding for adult education, which has fallen from a high of $185 million in 1996 to only $22 million today. An important component of workforce development in Michigan is an expansion in the number of people receiving GEDs and/or acquiring the basic skills needed to prepare for occupational skills training leading to employment.

With current funding, Michigan cannot reach many working-age adults who need services. Nearly 222,000 Michigan adults ages 25-44 lack a high school diploma or GED, but fewer than 7% are enrolled in adult education. In addition, more than 225,000 adults in this state are not proficient in English, but fewer than 5% enroll in English as a Second language adult education programs.

    • House: The House committee eliminated all funding ($22 million) for adult education, as well as all funding ($1.2 million) for K-12 bilingual education.
    • Senate Appropriations Committee: The Senate committee increased funding for adult education by $7 million, to a total of $29 million, and agreed with the governor to continue funding for K-12 bilingual education at current levels.