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State Superintendent Says K-12 Budget Plans Are Getting Ready for Negotiations

LANSING – State Superintendent Dr. Michael F. Rice says that the state’s K-12 budget approved this week by the Michigan House of Representatives appropriations committee still lacks what is fully needed for Michigan students but is getting closer to a place where negotiations with the Senate and Governor Gretchen Whitmer can provide needed investments in Michigan’s public schools.

“While the House’s per pupil foundation allowance increase is significant, there are no additional dollars to improve funding for economically disadvantaged students and English learners, both of whom have greater needs on average and require greater resources as a result,” said Dr. Rice.

“While there is significant funding for teacher recruitment, there is little associated with staff retention and no staff retention bonuses, which were in the governor’s budget,” Dr. Rice said. “The legislature can do better on teacher recruitment and staff retention to help rebuild a profession that it undermined substantially over the last two decades through underfunding and onerous state laws.”

The state aid foundation allowance increase of $300 per pupil adopted by the House Appropriations Committee is healthy, though less than the increase in Governor Whitmer’s recommendation and that in the state Senate’s budget, Dr. Rice noted. The House budget adds $210 million in funding for students with disabilities—slightly higher than the governor’s recommendation of a $150 million increase and quite a bit greater than the absence of an increase in the Senate’s budget.

“Five months after the tragic deaths of four children in Oxford, the House is still waiting for a legislative commission to determine how much additional funding is necessary for student mental health, whereas the governor’s budget adds hundreds of millions of dollars in this important area,” Dr. Rice said. “Many of our children had mental health challenges pre-pandemic and these challenges have clearly grown during the pandemic. School mental health funding is critical.”

Dr. Rice added, “Neither the House nor the Senate budget includes any of the $1 billion that the governor proposed to help school districts with needed physical plant improvements to aging buildings.”

Dr. Rice noted an appreciation for House funding of grow your own programs for students and staff who aspire to be teachers and for scholarships and student-teacher stipends for those who are completing teacher preparation programs. These ideas are consistent with recommendations of the governor and of MDE.

“Michigan needs a K-12 school aid budget that focuses on the unique needs and costs of all students, strengthens the teaching profession, and provides better supports for students and staff,” Dr. Rice said. “The governor’s proposed budget does just that, and the state legislature needs to craft a budget with similar focus. We have the resources and the opportunity right now to make a significant difference for our children.”