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State Superintendent Says the Senate K-12 Budget Is Insufficient

LANSING – State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice says that the state’s K-12 budget put forward by the Senate appropriations subcommittee Thursday lacks the funding and attention to the needs of Michigan children coming out of the pandemic and does not adequately address the state’s dire teacher shortage to the same extent that Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed budget does.

While the Senate K-12 budget added to the state aid per pupil funding, Dr. Rice says the other proposed cuts are troubling.

“While we appreciate the very substantial Senate-budgeted increase in per pupil funding,” Dr. Rice said, “it is lamentable that there’s no attempt to address the underfunding of groups of children that have greater needs, and therefore greater costs associated with their education, including but not limited to economically disadvantaged children, students with disabilities, career and technical education students, and English language learners.”

The Senate increased the per pupil funding by $450 to $9,150 per pupil and included cyber schools in the increase. The Senate budget does not include increased funding for children’s mental health services that the governor proposed, however.

“The Senate’s inadequate increase in children’s mental health services, given the needs of our children coming out of the pandemic, provides nothing that will affect student mental health needs next year,” Dr. Rice noted.

The governor’s proposed larger investments in early childhood education and special education were also absent in the Senate budget.

“This is not a budget that appropriately serves children,” Dr. Rice said, “and it’s not acceptable to justify this budget by saying that it is the beginning of a longer budget process. The beginning of a process should not underfund special education, children’s mental health, or early childhood funding. The beginning of a budget process should not underfund teacher recruitment and retention in the midst of a teacher shortage. That’s not the way the beginning of negotiations should be, especially coming out of a pandemic and with the financial wherewithal we have in this state at this time.”

The state legislature has had a half billion dollars in teacher recruitment and retention recommendations from the Michigan Department of Education in front of it since November.

“The Senate has not only failed to act on the recommendations, but it puts virtually nothing into this area for next year,” Dr. Rice said.

Governor Whitmer also proposed significant investments with educator retention bonuses, student teacher stipends, teacher preparation scholarships, onboarding and mentoring programs for new teachers, and grow-your-own programs to encourage high school students and school support staff into the teaching profession.

“The teacher shortage is adversely affecting children in Michigan and the legislature has done virtually nothing to address the shortage this year. It needs to invest in solutions to reverse the shortage that previous legislatures helped to create,” Dr. Rice said.

Dr. Rice expressed appreciation for the increase in school safety funding and recognized the need to continue to work on the details between the difference in the Senate’s proposals and those that the governor laid out in February.

The Senate will finalize its budget plan in the coming week, while the House of Representatives will unveil its plan for K-12 funding next week.

“We would hope that the House budget is more supportive of children’s needs coming out of the pandemic than is the Senate budget – particularly children’s mental health needs and the need to better support and strengthen the teaching profession and, more broadly, public school staffing,” Dr. Rice concluded.