Michigan schools given record per-pupil funding, $204M for at-risk students | #schoolsaftey

The Michigan legislature passed a $24.3 billion school aid budget that largely prioritizes investments in Michigan’s K-12 schools, starting with the largest ever per-pupil allocation at $9,608 a student.

Chair of the Senate Appropriations K-12 Subcommittee, Sen. Darrin Camilleri, D-Brownstown Township, said lawmakers put the school budget together with the help of educators, parents and students.

“We went into the field to listen to their stories,” Camilleri said. “This is a budget that truly reflects the values of the people of Michigan and equity was a core component of our budgeting process.”

RELATED: Michigan’s $82 billion budget brings record spending to all corners of state government

Here are some of the allocations:

Addressing pandemic learning loss

Line items focus on reversing significant learning loss experienced by students as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes a $90.9 million increase for the Great Start Readiness Program, the state-funded preschool program; $140 million in one-time funding grants for early literacy instruction; and $204.5 million for at-risk students in economically disadvantaged communities.

Legislators baked into the budget too a proposal to provide all of Michigan’s PreK-12 students with free breakfast and lunch. Initially brought forward by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in her executive recommendations presented to the legislature in January, the line item is worth $160 million, and encourages districts to meet dietary restrictions students may need.

Teacher incentives

The budget also extends a hand to current and future educators seemingly as a way to address the teacher staffing issues experienced by many districts.

A pilot student loan repayment program is one way the budget tackles this issue. It appropriates $225 million in one-time funding to be broken down into $200 monthly payments for employees who work directly with students. Employees in districts where at least 85% of students are considered economically disadvantaged would receive up to $400 per month.

“We are transforming the way that educators want to think about entering and staying in the classroom,” Camilleri said.

For the MI Future Educator Fellowship Program, $25 million is set aside to offset tuition costs for college students working toward their teacher certification and aspiring to work in nonpublic schools. Similarly, the MI Future Educator Student Teacher Stipend would utilize $50 million for higher education institutions to pay student teachers.

Investments in Lansing, Eastpointe, Kent County

Several communities received a slew of one-time funding for local projects.

Democrats were adamant early in the budget process about making investments in communities they believe the previous GOP majority overlooked.

Camilleri calls it “a major step in the right direction.”

Lansing Public Schools is expected to receive $500,000 for the construction of a track, while Eastpointe Community Schools will receive the same amount for the construction of a swimming pool. In Flint, $2.6 million will be used to renovate a building for a bilingual early childhood center and Godfrey-Lee School District in Kent County is to receive $4 million in funding to fix a high school roof collapse.

The one-time funding is also to go to construction of career and technical education centers in Shiawassee, Romulus, Harper Woods and Lansing worth almost $9.1 million.

Millions for school safety improvements

School safety has also been a topic of conversation as Michigan and the nation grapples with an increase in mass shootings. As a way to address this, the state looks to invest $25 million for school resource officers, $2 million for an optional statewide school safety and mental health commission and $3 million for grants to districts that integrate firearm detection software into existing cameras.

Camilleri sees potential to do more for Michigan’s students with projects as soon as next year, but he believes this budget will set up the state’s children for future success.

“Program after program, we found ways to support our kids and make sure that they are safe, healthy and thriving in our schools, but we do know that we need to do more,” Camilleri said.

Universities, community colleges

Community colleges and universities were awarded a smaller chunk of the newly passed budget. Altogether, it allots $544.5 million for community colleges and $2.3 billion for higher education. This is a 4.9% increase for community college operations and a 6.4% increase for higher-education operations.

Michigan State University will see $30 million for the creation of an engineering and digital Innovation center, which will contain classrooms, laboratories and project studios focused on computational sciences and digital literacy disciplines, according to the House Fiscal Agency analysis. Lawmakers allotted $3 million for constructing a facility for the Michigan Geological Survey at Western Michigan University, and $870,000 will be used for the creation of a nursing program at Michigan Technological University.

Whitmer-led initiatives meant to attract and retain more talent in Michigan saw increased funding, as well. Efforts worth $5 million will be used to reach approved applicants for Michigan’s free community college program who never enrolled in courses, while the Michigan Achievement Scholarship Fund will see a 20% increase.

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