SAGINAW, MI—After a failed mileage proposal in August, the Saginaw Intermediate School District (ISD) has reignited an attempt to fund special education programs in county schools.
According to Erin Senkowski, executive director of special education at ISD, the initiative failed in part because of low turnout across the county.
“Precincts that are within the voting area served by the Saginaw Public School District actually voted in favor of the mileage, so the idea of it being confused with their previous mileage is not as supported” , said Senkowski. “We hope that by providing more information and educating voters, the special education mile will be more successful in an election that is more likely to see more voters.”
This information is supported by results listed by Saginaw County. Only three of 17 Saginaw Public School District (SPSD)-served neighborhoods, with the city of Zilwaukee included due to the Zilwaukee K-8 School, voted against the measure.
A total of 38,746 voters in Saginaw County as a whole expressed their position on the mileage: 18,784 in favor; 19,962 against – a difference of just under 1,200 votes.
RELATED: Saginaw County Election Results for August 2, 2022
According to the Michigan Secretary of State’s voter information page, there are 156,883 registered voters in Saginaw County, which means about three-quarters of voters did not participate in the primary vote. august.
The confusion Senkowski is referring to was highlighted by the Saginaw Public School Board in a statement released trying to clear things up ahead of the August election.
“…[T]he Saginaw Middle School District placed a special education mile in Saginaw County on the ballot. To be clear, the Saginaw Middle School District is not part of the Saginaw Public Schools. It is an entirely separate entity responsible for providing support services to the 12 local school districts in Saginaw County. Special education support is one such service. Therefore, Saginaw Public Schools did not initiate this mileage and are not responsible for placing it on the ballot. Also, for clarity, if passed, the mileage will benefit special education students in Saginaw Public Schools and provide budget support for special education in Saginaw Public Schools. It will also benefit each of Saginaw County’s 12 local school districts equally…”
Saginaw ISD Superintendent Jeff Collier said there may have been some confusion in August, but said after additional time to notify residents he was cautious to avoid any misconceptions. about what had happened.
“We don’t want to provide a false narrative,” Collier said. “Even with that, we understand they had just passed a historic $100 million bond, special education is still underfunded. We want to be careful in the support this receives so that the community is not distorted. These funds allow county schools to spend their general fund in ways they previously could not.
RELATED: Next special education mile vote is for Saginaw ISD, not Saginaw Public Schools, district clarifies
Senkowski backed up the SPSD statement when speaking with MLive/The Saginaw News about how the mileage would affect different districts.
Senkowski said the funding provided to each school is done only to supplement the funding the district would typically spend on these programs from its general fund. She adds that ISD provides the services, but bills the districts proportionately based on the types of services needed and the number of students who need them.
For example, Senkowski said the Saginaw Public School District and the Saginaw Township Community School District pay about $1.2 million to $1.3 million of their general funds for special education services.
These numbers drop dramatically for schools like Merrill ($300,000) and other charter schools (estimated under $100,000) that ISD works with.
What Senkowski said the mileage would help provide for those districts is a way to fund other programs that those general funds would go to if they weren’t needed for special education.
An example she gave, in this case, is Freeland.
In a Facebook post on the Freeland Community School District page, the district said that, if approved, it would recoup approximately $4.6 million over the 10-year lifespan of the mileage. The district said it would seek to use the funds for student intervention specialists, paraprofessionals, an elementary counselor, the Freeland High School and Freeland Middle School social worker, its Pathways to Graduation program, and a specialist secondary school teacher.
In response to Freeland’s post, Collier said other districts are also working to figure out what they plan to use the funds on.
“This is an opportunity to have another major direct investment in Saginaw County that will equate to approximately $86 million,” Collier said. “It’s a huge shift to invest in our schools and then attract and retain young talent and entrepreneurs when we have the best school systems in the state.”
The exact language of the mileage proposal as approved for the Nov. 8 ballot can be found on the Saginaw County website and reads:
“This proposal will increase the middle school district’s levy by the special education mile previously approved by voters.
The 1.9389 mill limit ($1.9389 on every $1,000 of taxable assessment) on annual property tax previously approved by voters in the Saginaw Middle School District, Michigan, for the education of should it be increased by 1.5611 thousandths ($1.5611 on each $1,000 of tax assessment) for a period of 10 years, from 2022 to 2031 inclusive; the estimated revenue the middle school district will receive if the mileage is approved and levied in 2022 is approximately $8,653,163 from local property taxes authorized hereby? »
For more information on special education mileage ahead of the Nov. 8 election, you can visit the Saginaw ISD website.
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