In the library at East Kentwood High School Tuesday afternoon, Governor Gretchen Whitmer sat at a table surrounded by students and signed a bill for the nationwide education budget. State for 27 years.
The bill provides for spending of $ 17.1 billion for preschools-12 in Michigan over the coming year, an increase of $ 1.6 billion from last year, without increasing taxes.
The bill also ensures that each school district will receive at least $ 8,700 in funding per student from the state. And, for the first time since 1994, all public school districts will receive the same minimum funding.
“We have been pursuing this goal longer than any of these students have been alive,” said Whitmer, nodding to the students gathered in the East Kentwood library. “Today, we realize it.
In 1994, Michigan voters approved Proposition A, which drastically changed the way the state funded its public schools. A key goal of the proposal was to eliminate the huge funding gaps between school districts.
Prior to Proposal A, funding for schools was determined at the local level. Some Michigan local governments have spent lavishly on education, while others have spent little. In 1993, the voters of Kalkaska elimination of funding for schools all in all, creating a crisis which ultimately led to the adoption of proposal A.
Under Proposal A, funding for schools would primarily flow through the state, and the state would guarantee a minimum amount of funding per student. But the state decided it didn’t want to punish districts that decided to spend more, so it came up with a formula to make up some of the difference.
In the 1994-95 school year, this formula allowed some districts to get up to $ 2,300 more per student than districts with the lowest funding, according to a Michigan Senate tax analysis. Since then, the funding gap has narrowed steadily, but it has not gone away. Not until now.
“Closing this funding gap means each district can hire more top-notch teachers and bring in more nurses, psychologists and school social workers to help our students,” Whitmer said Tuesday. “It means updated manuals, improved facilities and new sports equipment. “
This does not mean, however, that all state funding gaps will be eliminated. Local communities can always raise additional funds beyond the state’s minimum funding allocation to pay for technology upgrades and infrastructure. The state also provides additional funding to certain districts according to their needs, including for special education.
“Equal funding doesn’t mean we’ve achieved equity. We still have work to do in this space, ”Whitmer said Tuesday. “We recognize that funding should increase with the needs of students. ”
In addition to funding of $ 8,700 per student, the budget bill Whitmer signed on Tuesday includes:
- $ 240 million for schools to hire psychologists, nurses and social workers in neighborhoods that need them most.
- An augmentation of $ 32.5 million to expand the state’s Great Start Readiness preschool program for 4-year-olds.
- $ 155 million dollars from the US reading “scholarship” bailout to pay for tutoring and other materials for students with reading problems.
- $ 135 millions of dollars in grants and additional funding per student for districts that operate year round.
In addition to increases in the annual education budget, the state has also approved $ 4.4 billion in additional funding for COVID relief.
“The pandemic has caused a unique type of tension that I hope we will never see again,” said Keanta Simeneta, East Kentwood student.
A student who spoke at the governor’s signing ceremony on Tuesday said she hoped the additional investments would help students recover from a tumultuous year.
“Over the past year, life has been incredibly unpredictable,” said Keanta Simeneta, a student at East Kentwood High School. She said her school was practically functioning for much of the year and even when the students returned they feared they would receive a call that would send them into quarantine, disrupting their lives again.
“Many students found themselves isolated, helpless and desperate,” said Simeneta. “The pandemic has created a unique type of tension that I hope we will never see again. “
Even as the governor and other education officials celebrated the bipartisan budget, it was recognized that more needs to be done to support students and educators in the years to come.
“After decades of inequity and dramatic underfunding of public education, one fiscal year will not solve all the problems that years of divestment have caused our students, educators and communities,” said Paula Herbart, president of the Michigan Education Association. . Herbart also attended the signing ceremony on Tuesday.
But Herbart said she hopes the investments made in this year’s budget will have an impact and help advance the cause of the importance of education funding in Michigan.