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New School Aid Budget May Set Generational High-Water Mark In Per-Pupil Funding

July 19, 2022

(FLINT) – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the $19.6 billion Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 School Aid Fund budget Thursday at Mott Community College, which could set a generational high-water mark for per-pupil spending because of the influx of federal money.

The federal money has allowed for one-time investments, including $250 million for school infrastructure, an increase in school programming and recruiting teachers in Michigan. That freed up money to increase per-pupil funding.

“We’ve always been . . . so grateful to the federal government and our congressional delegations that have supported sending resources to the state,” Whitmer said.

From FY ‘14 to FY ’21, Michigan government produced eight straight “record” School Aid Fund budgets that steadily increased the amount of education funding each year. In 2021, the amount reached a modern record of $21.7 billion due to a massive influx of $7.87 billion in federal COVID relief money. This year, the state is spending $17 billion on K-12 education, which is rising 15% to $19.6 billion.

Federal funding is at $2.5 billion in the FY ’23 budget the Governor signed Thursday. For perspective, in most of those “record” School Aid Fund budgets, federal funding was at $1.8 billion.

“We’ve been very purposeful in terms of ensuring we have ongoing resources separate from one-time resources and things like the increased funding for schools, the $450 per student, we have that baked in going forward and we know that our resources, the expectation with our revenue stream, that we can continue to support this,” said Michigan Budget Director Chris Harkins.

The increase of $450 per student put the per-pupil funding at $9,150, which is the highest in Michigan history, but it could also be a generational high-water mark.

Whitmer acknowledged the state budget has been growing and wanted the state to continue to fund longer-term investments.

“That’s why we have been very thoughtful about making sure that where there are one-time resources, we’re utilizing them for one-time expenditures,” Whitmer said.

She also vetoed three line items from the School Aid Fund boilerplate that Press Secretary BobbyLeddysaid tried to create a “gag rule” to prevent reproductive health services from mentioning abortion.

“Whitmer has been clear that women and doctors should be making health-care decisions – not politicians,” Leddy said.

Future School Aid Fund budgets could continue to grow, but not at the current rate as the federal government pulls back on aid. Mitch Bean, of Great Lakes Economic Consulting, said that unless you are in a recession, the budget goes up a little bit each year because the economy is growing.

“The pie is growing and the slice of the pie that is going to fund government goes with it,” Bean said.

However, he said there are indicators that the economy will soon slow.

“There is an old saying, ‘you don’t fight the fed,’” he said. “The fed is going to slow the economy down, that’s happening right now, and that’s going to slow down the growth.”

He said he hopes it doesn’t slow too much or it could send the nation into a deep recession and revenue would slow with it.

Whitmer talked about the transformative effect the budget could have on teacher recruitment to the state.

“The last few years have been difficult. We need to do more to recruit the best teachers into our schools and to our state,” she said.

The Funding MI Future Educator Fellowship pays $10,000 in tuition for 2,500 future teachers per year.

The budget adds a $9,600 stipend, per semester, for student teachers.

The Grow-Your-Own programs help support staff, such as Para-pros and lunchroom staff, have a no-cost path to become teachers.

The Troops-to-Teachers program connects veterans who want to become teachers with mentors.

“Not everyone graduating high school wants to become a teacher right away,” Whitmer said.

Whitmer also touted the mental health aspects of the signed budget with $213 per-pupil funding for every public school district.

The Transforming Research into Action to Improve the Lives of Students, or TRAILS, program would get $45 million to be implemented at intermediate school districts.

Schools would get $25 million to hire school safety officers and $168 million for whatever safety needs the school wanted.

A school safety commission would be established using $2 million from the budget.

State Superintendent Michael Rice, who was in the crowd during the bill signing, said he was glad to see the Department of Education recommendations adopted after years of underfunding.

“Kids win! This is a generational budget for our children,” Rice said.

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