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Governor, Legislature Agree to School Budget That Builds on Growth

LANSING – The Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) state school aid budget agreed to by Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the state legislature continues to build on the growth in the FY23 budget, according to the Michigan Department of Education (MDE).

“There is so much to celebrate in this budget,” said State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice, noting Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) flexibility and additional funding to help achieve universally accessible preschool, universal school meals, big increases for students with disabilities and English learners, an opportunity index for the funding of economically disadvantaged students, tutoring for children who are behind in reading and math, transportation reimbursement, and the mentoring of new teachers, counselors, and administrators.

“In the 30 years since Proposal A to change the school funding system, Michigan hasn’t had two years of back-to-back funding increases close to FY23 and FY24,” Dr. Rice said. “Kudos to the governor and state legislature for their work, among that of many others, on the budget.”

“Investing in our schools, our students, our teachers, and our communities makes a strong statement on what we value most as Michiganders,” said State Board of Education President Dr. Pamela Pugh. “Building a solid Michigan by providing opportunities for healthy and educated children is the best formula for greater success and a brighter future.”

“The Governor and state legislators did well for Michigan’s students,” said David Hecker, president of AFT Michigan. “We want the very best education for all students regardless of zip code and that costs money. This budget is a strong step towards the funding our students need and deserve.”

Paul Liabenow, executive director of the Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association (MEMSPA) said, “MEMSPA is most delighted and thankful for the remarkable school aid budget that will bring us closer to providing adequate funding to service the 1.5 million students in Michigan. Thanks to the collective work of the Michigan Department of Education, the House and Senate budget committees and the governor’s office, we have an historic increase that we believe will provide services and resources to help improve in all academic areas. Together we are better.”

Some of the substantial budget highlights in the FY24 school state aid budget include:

Per pupil foundation allowance – the new budget includes a five percent, $458 per pupil increase in the state’s foundation allowance for a total of $9,608 per pupil and additional increases for students with disabilities; economically disadvantaged students; and English learners. The new $9,608 per pupil foundation allowance is the highest in the state’s school funding history.

Universal meals – invests $160 million to provide free meals to help ensure that fewer children are hungry, more children are healthy, and more children are able to focus on their schoolwork; and $2.5 million to forgive all meal debt of families who have been unable to pay for school meals this past school year.

Early childhood education – increases funds for the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) for four-year-old children by $72.3 million with incentives to expand GSRP programs from 4 instructional days per week to 5 days per week and from 30 to 36 instructional weeks in the year.

MIKids Back on Track – provides $150 million for tutors for children who have substantial unfinished learning in the wake of the pandemic and focuses those funds on students with the greatest need.

School transportation – appropriates $125 million of a $350 million fund to begin to reimburse districts for the costs of school transportation, and another $200,000 to study transportation needs and costs of Michigan schools.

Rebuilding the Michigan teaching profession – continuation funding to invest in strategies to respond to the state’s teacher shortage, including $25 million for educator fellowships and $50 million for student teacher stipends.

Early literacy training – $140 million to improve early literacy instructional practices for pre-K-5 teachers. The budget also appropriates $10 million for more educators and literacy coaches to take LETRS training. Over 5,000 Michigan educators have taken or are currently taking LETRS training, a major department initiative in the last two years to improve early literacy.

Student loan repayment pilot program – provides one-time funding of $225 million to repay student loans of school employees who work directly with students, an MDE recommendation to help address issues of retention in the educator pipeline. Payments are capped at the lesser of actual loan payments or $200 per month, or up to $400 per month if the employee works in a district where at least 85% of pupils are economically disadvantaged.

Educator mentoring and induction – provides $50 million over five years to assist schools in developing and implementing mentoring programs to support and retain new teachers, school counselors, and administrators and to improve their instructional practices, an important recommendation of MDE and state education organizations to improve educator retention and by extension public education in the state.

Teachers in rural school districts –appropriates $15 million for a rural educator credentialing hub to support prospective educators and help develop more teachers for rural school districts, another recommendation of the department to address the teacher shortage.

Healthy and safe schools – invests a total of $328 million (Sec. 31aa) for districts, intermediate school districts (ISDs), the Michigan School for the Deaf, and nonpublic schools for activities to improve mental health and improve school safety with the intent that at least half of the funds be spent on mental health; $87.2 million (Sec. 31n) for student mental health and support services; $50 million (Sec. 12a) for competitive grants to schools to lower energy costs and improve health outcomes at school facilities; and $6 million (Sec. 97j) for districts and ISDs to purchase and implement tools to identify early behaviors that could require intervention to prevent abuse, self-harm, or violence in schools.

MiFamily Engagement Centers/Early literacy hubs – provides $14 million over four years for 10 family engagement centers across the state, and $2 million for early literacy hubs at the family engagement centers to support early literacy for children birth to fifth grade.

Mathematics Teaching and Learning – provides $25 million for grants to districts and ISDs to support mathematics teaching and learning through capacity building for early math specialists, purchasing and implementation of instructional materials, expansion of math recovery specialists statewide, and supports for personalized support programs.

Teaching diverse and local histories – appropriates $6 million for districts to implement plans to teach diverse American histories and their local history.

Local school board member training – appropriates $150,000 in the MDE budget to offset costs for local school board members to take training on the roles and functions of school board members.

MI Clean School Bus Grants – provides $125 million to purchase no- or low-greenhouse gas emission school buses, including alternative fuel vehicles and infrastructure, such as charging stations, as eligible expenses.

Dr. Rice praised the governor and state legislature for funding many of the recommendations that MDE had promoted over the last few years, especially in the areas of adequate and equitable school funding, including different funding associated with educating students with different needs (Goal 8 of Michigan’s Top 10 Strategic Education Plan); teacher recruitment and retention efforts to help address the state’s teacher shortage (Goal 7); student mental health supports (Goal 3); literacy supports (Goal 2); and early childhood expansion (Goal 1).

“We’re not done yet,” Dr. Rice added. “You can’t make up for multi-billion dollar underfunding in education, identified by the School Finance Research Collaborative study and other research, in just two state budgets, however extraordinary. Compared to other states and relative to inflation, the state underinvested profoundly in public education for many years post-Proposal A, and it will take time for us to address the adverse impact on human and financial resources and to build an education budget and system that fully support our children.”