By Tony Barnes
Burt Township School District Superintendent
Let’s talk about everyone’s favorite topic: public school funding!
The Burt Township School District is primarily funded in two unique ways. The first way we are funded is through our property tax revenues. You may think to yourself though, “That’s not very unique,” but it is. See, we’re “out of formula”, which means we have so few students, we choose not to collect per pupil allowances from the state.
Instead, we collect money on non-homestead property taxes. That is, second and third homes as well as local businesses. The amount that we collect is greater than what we would get if we chose to be “in formula” and collect per pupil dollars from the state.
The other unique way we are funded is through a special line item in the Michigan state budget called 22(d)2. This one is actually super unique: so much so that there are only four other schools who receive these special dollars from the State of Michigan. The other 22(d)2 schools are Whitefish in Paradise, Mackinac Island, DeTour, and Beaver Island.
First, a little about the history. Back in 1994, when the state did away with funding schools based on local property taxes and moved to funding schools based on a per pupil allowance (Proposal A), small schools like ours suffered greatly. Schools like ours have so few students, even though we went out of formula and made up some of the difference, there was no way we were going to be able to keep our doors open without some type of additional funding.
So, the five “island schools” got together and lobbied in Lansing for extra money, specifically for our most rural and isolated districts that were either literally on an island or were virtually on an island due to their geographic distance from their neighboring school districts. 22(d)2 was born, and the Burt Township School District survived! For now…
Over the years, the state has continued to fund our five schools and even increase the allowance, but not as much as we need. Rising transportation costs, teacher recruitment and retention, and infrastructure contract challenges due to our isolation make running our schools significantly harder than pretty much all the other schools in the state.
We just need more money and we’re not getting it. Which brings me to the reason I am writing this post. Last week, myself and two of the four other 22(d)2 superintendents traveled to Lansing to meet with lawmakers to request additional funding. Long story short, we did the very best we could and now all we can do is wait to see if our efforts paid off.
I know school funding is not everyone’s favorite topic. But it is an important topic if you care about our school and the health of our community both here in Grand Marais and across the U.P.
I hope this post has helped shed light on yet another unique aspect of our already unique school. Go Polar Bears!!!