Michigan’s K-12 public schools would receive a $120-180 per-pupil boost in funding, plus additional aid to support the costlier needs of at-risk, special education, and career/technical students, under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s first state budget proposal released today.
The governor’s spending blueprint follows the recommendations of several recent studies which examined Michigan’s school funding system and found a chasm between the per-pupil foundation grant and the true costs of educating a child.
The plan Whitmer unveiled before a joint session of the state House and Senate Appropriations committees today would increase K-12 education spending by $507 million in the next fiscal year— “the biggest investment in the education of kids in Michigan in a generation,” she told lawmakers.
In addition, the governor reaffirmed her commitment to increasing the number of residents who hold post-secondary degrees or skills certification by funding programs to retrain adult workers and to guarantee two years of debt-free community college or university for qualifying students starting in 2021.
The state is at a crossroads, she warned in the opening salvo of a push to garner support for initiatives in roads, infrastructure, and education from a Republican-controlled Legislature. Education funding is the same today as in 2007 without any adjustments for inflation, she noted.
“We’ve all seen the headlines—our kids are falling behind, and our schools don’t have the resources they need. It’s taking a toll on our educators, who are leaving for better opportunities or who are not going into the career in the first place.
“We’ve got classrooms crammed with kids who need more face-to-face time with their teachers, and their outcomes make us less competitive.”
In addition to $235 million for the per-pupil bump, Whitmer’s proposal would increase the reimbursement to districts for federally mandated special education services ($120 million); strengthen support for disadvantaged and at-risk students ($102 million); and provide additional career and technical education opportunities for students ($50 million).
Whitmer’s plan also would allocate $24.5 million to triple the number of literacy coaches available to support classroom teachers.
MEA President Paula Herbart praised Whitmer’s budget outline for addressing issues too-long ignored.
“We can’t keep shortchanging our students and expect better results,” Herbart said. “Gov. Whitmer’s proposal to invest an additional $500 million in K-12 schools is a huge step toward addressing this issue that’s been developing for decades.”
The most comprehensive study ever conducted of K-12 school financing in Michigan, released last year, found the state is not only under-funding public education by nearly $2,000 per student but neglecting the needs of English language learners, students living in poverty, and those identified with learning challenges.
“Underfunded special education programs are forcing schools to redirect resources, and funding for at-risk students has fallen by 60 percent,” Whitmer said.
Last year’s study by the School Finance Research Collaborative was bolstered by research released in January from a Michigan State University professor who found Michigan had implemented the steepest decline in K-12 education funding among all 50 states over the past 20 years.
“Every other state in the nation is meeting their kids’ needs better than we are,” Whitmer said. “Our goal has got to be taking Michigan from the bottom 10 in the country to the top 10 in educational outcomes for our students.”
Whitmer said the decision to be made at this crossroads is whether to continue down a path of disinvestment in infrastructure and talent, or to make “bold investments” that improve education and opportunity for every student in the state.
Too often in recent years, money has been shifted from one part of the state budget to fill holes in other places, she said: “No more shell games and half-measures. Here’s a real plan.”
To pay for the K-12 increases, funding for public universities would come from the state’s General Fund, ending a string of budgets that relied on raiding the School Aid Fund to make ends meet. Both Higher Education and Community Colleges would receive 3 percent increases under the governor’s proposal.
For more information on Gov. Whitmer’s budget presentation, visit the State Budget Office website.