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State Superintendent Says K-12 Budget Still Requires Work to Meet Student Needs

LANSING – With the final passage of the state House and Senate versions of the state school aid budget this week, State Superintendent Dr. Michael F. Rice says some improvements have been made that lead up to negotiations with Governor Gretchen Whitmer to provide needed investments in Michigan’s public schools.

“We have the resources and the opportunity in the state right now to make a significant difference for our children,” Dr. Rice said. “Such an opportunity will likely not exist in the foreseeable future. Let’s make the most of the moment and do something life-changing for the next generation of Michigan children.”

Dr. Rice acknowledged that before final passage Thursday, the House added over $100 million to help address the mental health needs of Michigan students coming out of the pandemic.

“We greatly appreciate the additional funding by the House,” Dr. Rice said. “It’s still not enough, but far better than it was.”

Also Thursday, the state Senate added $70 million more to address students’ disrupted learning over the past two years.

In remarks made during a Thursday afternoon press conference in Grand Rapids, Dr. Rice said Governor Whitmer’s budget proposal is a generational budget that lifts up Michigan students and staff.

“The governor’s budget is the best school budget that many educators have ever seen and has the potential – if adopted in substantially similar form – to drive significant improvement in our children’s education,” Dr. Rice said.

The governor’s budget increases the per pupil foundation allowance by 5% or $435 per child; raises categorical funding for economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, English learners, students in rural and isolated districts, and students in career and technical education; increases school safety funding; provides for a $1 billion infrastructure modernization fund; adds $361 million in children’s mental health funding; and includes $2.3 billion for teacher recruitment and staff retention.

Both the Senate and House budgets have strengths; both have gaps.

Like the governor’s budget, both the Senate and House budgets include significant and appreciated per pupil foundation allowance increases; include needed investments in school safety; and some funding for teacher recruitment initiatives.

The legislature did not increase categorical funding for economically disadvantaged students or English learners; did not provide resources for the governor’s $1 billion school infrastructure modernization fund for low-taxable-value school districts, many of which are rural; and did not fund teacher and school staff retention bonuses, which the governor recognized as an important mechanism for stabilizing the profession during a critical teacher shortage.

“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.

“We appreciate the earnest work that the legislature has done to this point and think that legislators would do well to review again the governor’s budget that fully supports students and staff as the negotiations begin between the governor and legislative leaders.”