LANSING — The Republican-led Michigan Legislature on Thursday gave final approval to a K-12 budget that would boost base per-student funding for most schools by $240, or 3%.
The House passed the spending bill 91-18, with most Democrats joining all Republicans to support it. The Senate OK’d the measure 21-17, as one Republican and all Democrats lined up in opposition.
It will soon go to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
The minimum per-pupil grant, which many districts and charter schools receive, would increase from $7,871 to $8,111. Districts at the higher end would get $8,529, or $120 more than the current $8,409 allotment — a 1.4% bump.
Cadillac Area Public Schools Superintendent Jennifer Brown said she is hopeful this budget will be signed and her district can move forward serving its students. She also said she is happy to see the 2x formula being used to address the inequity in funding for districts like Cadillac.
Likewise, the additional dollars for special education and career technical centers are important and encouraging, Brown said.
“I hope that there is a continued conversation about equity after this budget is signed so that we can address funding for education based on students’ needs not solely on student numbers. Our costs to educate students vary depending on student needs, resources, and services available, transportation, etc.,‘ she said. “In order to get to an equitable funding formula, we need to look at research and how high performing states are accomplishing adequate support and resources to educate our children.‘
Pine River Area Schools Superintendent Matt Lukshaitis said he too was happy to see the Legislature using the 2x funding model. That said, having a budget signed would be great as his district and all districts across the state are still operating on a “guess‘ right now for foundation allowance and categoricals.
“A lot of rural schools like Pine River tend to struggle a little more than the downstate suburban/urban schools because we just don’t have that massive tax infrastructure as they do and so we really rely on the foundation allowance moving,‘ he said. “The (career tech education) money and the special education bump mentioned in the conference committee’s budget are also quite appealing. We need to give our students the best education possible and resources help us retain our great teachers, keep the lights on, the career tech center open, and the buses rolling.‘
Finally, Lukshaitis said districts could have used the information to their advantage if the numbers had been available in May, but knowing they have a positive budget is a relief.
Both Reps. Daire Rendon, R-Lake City, and Michele Hoitenga, R-Manton, both voted in support of the Legislature’s school aid budget which included the largest investment in education in the state’s history. Rendon said legislators are putting students in a better position to succeed.
“Business is booming in Michigan. That’s why it’s important we are providing our classrooms with the necessary tools to prepare our children and grandchildren to enter the state’s workforce upon graduation,‘ Rendon said.
Hoitenga said the legislators went above and beyond what the Gov. Whitmer’s expectations were in some areas of the budget while also respecting taxpayers and what the state could afford.
“Educating our future generations and giving them the tools they need to succeed is critical. We made sure to honor that commitment to kids in all corners of our great state with this plan,‘ Hoitenga said.
Sen. Curt VanderWall, R-Ludington, said the school budget that was sent to Gov. Whitmer Thursday is not only a historic increase but also realistic and fiscally responsible. VanderWall said he looks forward to her signing the school budget. He also said the Legislature will send the remaining budget bill to Gov. Whitmer next week.
The school aid budget would spend $387 million more in state money, about $136 million less than what Whitmer proposed. Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield and Democratic House Minority Leader Christine Greig did cut a deal to spend an additional $30 million to reimburse districts for their special education costs, above what had been unveiled by GOP lawmakers last week. Under another change, legislators agreed not to require the closure or reconstitution of a chronically underperforming school that does not improve as part of a “partnership‘ with the state.
“This budget, when you consider the status quo, funds education at a truly fantastic level,‘ said Rep. Aaron Miller, a Sturgis Republican. He said it would begin the process of no longer using school aid dollars to fund higher education and also target needs such as special education and at-risk students.
But Rep. Sheryl Kennedy, a Davison Democrat, said the budget falls short. She cited a study that found schools are underfunded by $2,500 per student and a task force’s finding that special education is underfunded by $700 million.
“This budget does not keep up with the cost of inflation or legacy costs, and I do not believe in balancing school budgets on the backs of teacher pensions,‘ Kennedy said.
A report released this month by the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council said more and more school spending is going to meet unfunded retiree pension and health care costs despite recent changes to the retirement system.
Budget talks between Whitmer and Republican leaders broke down last week, even after the sides agreed to table discussions over a long-term road-funding plan. The Legislature is planning to send spending measures to her desk, while she is leaving open the possibility of vetoing parts of the budget.
The deadline to enact the budget is Sept. 30. Later Thursday, GOP-controlled conference committees are scheduled to unveil more spending bills covering everything from transportation, prisons, the attorney general’s office and the secretary of state’s office.