Every year at this time, talk of the state budget in Michigan can be confusing because of competing spending plans that must get negotiated. However, this year’s discussions about education funding have added complexity from various federal COVID relief acts for responding to the public health crisis.
Also complicating the conversation is the fact that Republican leaders in the House and Senate have infused politics into the distribution of hundreds of millions of dollars sent by Congress to help school districts address ongoing safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The past two weeks have brought a convergence of all of the above – amid an ongoing and important MEA call to action for members to contact legislators. Because it’s hard to keep straight all of the school funding priorities and acronyms, for those who want a deeper dive, MEA has compiled a detailed primer on the latest news.
In short, the governor unveiled her spending blueprint for the 2021-22 school year in February. The state House and Senate followed last week with their own proposals, all of which will get negotiated into a final spending plan between now and the start of the state’s next fiscal year on October 1 (hopefully sooner, since school districts’ fiscal year begins July 1). The next major step in that process is the consensus revenue estimate on May 21 that will help finalize how much the state has available to spend.
Of more immediate concern is GOP political wrangling around money for Michigan school districts included in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA), passed by Congress in December 2020, and the more recent American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) passed in March.
Anytime that additional money for education is added to the state’s pot after adoption of the year’s education budget, it’s distributed in a “supplemental” school funding bill. Thus, last week the GOP-controlled State House proposed a supplemental bill spelling out how nearly $4 billion of federal COVID relief funding will be allocated to districts.
The House proposal for money from CRSSA sent by Congress in late December – $840 million – remains tied to a bill vetoed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in early March, which would remove executive branch powers to temporarily close schools amid a public health emergency – a goal of Republican lawmakers. (The State Senate has proposed spending only this money without such strings – but has not proposed how to spend much larger amounts from ARP.)
In addition, the House proposed conditions on $362 million of federal ARP monies meant to equalize per-pupil spending in school districts eligible for less Title 1 funding. Those funds will only be made available to districts that offer 20 hours of in-person learning by May 1 – details about those in-person options remain unclear in the vague wording of the bill. Only districts that would receive less than $1,093 per pupil in Title 1-based funding under ARP would get the equalization funding (and be subject to the 20 hour per week restriction to get that money) – see this list to see if your district would qualify for these funds.
What is clear is that some politicians are prioritizing political games over safe learning conditions for our state’s students and school employees.
Read a detailed primer on what’s happening with education funding in Michigan from MEA Lobbyist Andy Neumann.
Then take a look at MEA’s district-by-district breakdown of the money that GOP lawmakers are holding hostage to their political demands at MiSchoolRelief.com.
Finally, don’t hesitate—contact your lawmakers today to urge that funding be sent immediately and without strings!