Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a $24.3 billion education budget on Thursday for the upcoming fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, which state House Republicans have criticized as wasteful spending.
The new budget increases per-pupil spending, with a 5 percent raise in the foundation allowance. This raise brings the per-pupil funding to $9,608, the highest in the state’s history, according to the governor.
Speaking at a bill signing ceremony in Suttons Bay, Ms. Whitmer said that the budget prioritizes educational equity.
“We know that potential is universal, but opportunity is not. And when we make investments in the education of our kids, we’re creating opportunity for all,” she said.
The budget allocates $160 million to provide free breakfast and lunch to approximately 1.4 million PreK-12 students. This move is intended to ease financial burdens for families and enhance student focus during their school day.
Additionally, the budget allocates $13.3 million to achieve a 50 percent increase in funding for English language learners at the pre-K education level. It also designates $10 million to support critical incident mapping at community colleges and public universities to enhance campus safety.
State Sen. Darrin Camilleri (D-Trenton), the bill’s sponsor, said that the budget is one that “our students, families, and educators have been waiting for.”
Additionally, the state-funded pre-K program will be expanded to include families below 300 percent of the federal poverty guidelines—or a family of four making $90,000 a year. This expansion is expected to provide free preschool access to 5,600 more children starting this fall.
“Every Michigan child deserves a chance to pursue their potential and build a bright future. This historic education budget will make that possible,” Ms. Whitmer said in a statement.
“This budget puts students first and supports parents by expanding access to free pre-K, providing free breakfast and lunch to all public school students, and improving higher education.”
Ms. Whitmer’s ambitious plan includes providing free preschool for all families in Michigan by the end of her second term, which she believes will result in significant savings for families and contribute to a more equitable society.
State House Minority Leader Matt Hall criticized the budget in an official statement, arguing that Democrats prioritized pet projects over students’ academics.
“Michigan children who’ve struggled to learn to read won’t get much comfort from the fact that Democrats put pet projects—powered by a tax hike—over students’ academics,” Mr. Hall said in a statement.
He said that Republicans in the state called for increased investment in classroom learning, but instead, “Democrats squeezed $2 billion for pork and new programs into the school budget.” That money, he said, “could have provided nearly $1,400 more for each Michigan student.”
“They also eliminated dedicated funding for the school resource officers who keep our schools safe. To add insult to injury, Democrats can’t even pay for all their unnecessary spending unless they raise taxes on Michiganders who are struggling from the rising cost of living,” he added. “Michigan should wisely invest in student success instead of increasing taxes just to pay for the latest pork projects.”
Mr. Hall contends that Michigan could have allotted $10,968 per pupil had the Democrats not “added $2 billion of spending on pork and other programs into the school budget.” He cited the $125 million spent on green buses “that simply don’t work for expansive rural communities.”
The budget was approved in the state House with a margin of 58–50, gaining the backing of all Democratic lawmakers. Two Republicans in the chamber, state Reps. Graham Filler of Clinton County and Mark Tisdel of Rochester Hills, also voted in favor of the bill.
In the state Senate, the budget received more support from the GOP and passed with a vote of 29–8. Nine Republican state senators, including Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt of Porter Township, supported the budget’s approval.
Beyond per-pupil funding and free meals, the budget designates $343 million to support students’ mental health, school safety, and a counseling internship program for graduate-level mental health professionals. Additionally, $150 million is allocated to the “MI Kids Back on Track” program, providing tutoring and academic catch-up services for students at risk of falling behind.
To address the teacher shortage in Michigan, the budget includes funding for various incentives to attract and retain educators, such as tuition-free teacher training, student loan repayment for school employees, and stipends for student teachers.
From The Epoch Times