Another record-breaking education budget passed for 2023-24

The Michigan Legislature passed a bipartisan education budget for next school year on Wednesday evening, allocating a record amount of funding to help Michigan students succeed.

The $24.3 billion education budget prioritizes investments in Michigan’s K-12 schools, starting with the largest ever per-pupil allocation at $9,608 a student (an additional $458 per student).  Similarly, higher education funding is increasing, with a 5% increase for community college operational funding and a 6.4% increase for universities.

The K-12 budget invests significantly in educator recruitment and retention, something celebrated by MEA President Paula Herbart in a statement Wednesday evening.

“Thanks to the hard work of Gov. Whitmer and leaders in the state House and Senate, our local schools will continue to make progress in attracting and retaining qualified educators who can help our students succeed,” Herbart said. “It’s critical that we keep great educators on the job and attract talented people into this noble profession, and this budget agreement provides our schools with much-needed resources to help accomplish these goals.”

Among the educator recruitment and retention provisions:

  • There is a pilot student loan repayment program that 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.
  • There is also a $68.3 million pilot program providing an additional per-pupil grant to help bolster salaries.
  • For the MI Future Educator Fellowship Program, $25 million is set aside to offset tuition costs for college students working toward their teacher certification.
  • Similarly, the MI Future Educator Student Teacher Stipend would utilize $50 million for higher education institutions to pay student teachers.

Equity in education funding – emphasizing more resources for students and districts with greater needs – was another big winner in the budget:

  • The K-12 budget sets aside an additional $204 million increase, for a total of $952 million, in funding for academically at-risk, economically disadvantaged students.
  • A $310.3-million increase in special education funding, bringing the total special education spending in the budget to $2.2 billion, fully funding the foundation allowance of special education students for the first time.
  • $150.0 million to help with cost for rural bus transportation with a School Transportation Fund. School districts will be able to use a formula based on riders per square mile to get additional funding.
  • $160 million to provide all of Michigan’s PreK-12 students with free breakfast and lunch, a concept initially brought forward by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in her executive recommendations. Some of MEA support staff professionals will be part of a group with the administration and Department of Education to set up the mechanics of how this will work, including ways to encourage districts to meet dietary restrictions students may need while reducing waste and appropriately staffing these operations.

The Launch Michigan coalition praised these investments in a Thursday release, with MEA President-elect and Launch Michigan Vice Chair Chandra Madafferi saying, “More equity-based funding for at-risk and special education helps ensure these students with greater needs get the education services they deserve. This targeted investment is a powerful step toward achieving equitable educational opportunities for all students across the state.”

Other K-12 budget highlights include:

  • A $90.9 million increase for the Great Start Readiness Program, the state-funded preschool program and $140 million in one-time funding grants for early literacy instruction. The GSRP program for 4-year-olds is getting enough money to cover costs for 5 days a week, 36 weeks a year for an expanded universe of families.
  • $328.0 million to improve mental health and improve school safety.
  • $150M for the MI Kids Back on Track program providing district-based tutoring and academic intervention for students.
  • $50M for before- and after-school programs.
  • A 50% increase for bilingual education funding.
  • $140M for early literacy.
  • $50M for a school staff mentoring program.
  • Additional funding to pay unfunded retirement system liabilities, reimbursing districts for about 0.5% of all educator salaries.
  • Significant changes to budget boilerplate language including: provisions to blend enrollment counts for declining enrollment districts; allowing districts to use occasional virtual learning to count as instructional time; ensuring districts could still get up to 3 additional forgiven “snow days” even if they use professional development as instructional time; and striking penalties for districts that deduct union dues for employees or fail to have merit pay compensation methods.

For a full analysis, check out the Senate Fiscal Agency’s budget summary – and stay tuned for more details from MEA.

“Investing in our schools and our students is the most effective thing state leaders can do when it comes to creating a brighter future for Michigan, and we are thrilled that next year’s budget will continue to build on the progress we’ve made these past few years,” Herbart concluded about the newly passed budget. “While there’s still plenty of work left to do when it comes to providing our schools with the funding they need to help every child fulfill their potential, we are without a doubt on the right path forward.”

 

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