As spring heads into summer, state budget negotiations will heat up along with the weather—especially given big differences between the education priorities of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Republican leaders in the state House and Senate.
The House released an education spending plan on Thursday featuring smaller per-pupil increases and less money to cover added costs of special education, career-technical education, and at-risk students than either the Senate or Whitmer has advanced.
However, the biggest difference lies between Whitmer and legislative leaders in both chambers regarding revenue. Only the governor is proposing to raise revenue in response to numerous recent studies that found Michigan has chronically underfunded public education for two decades.
First-term Rep. Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth), a former educator and MEA member, pointed out the House budget continues to divert money from the School Aid Fund to pay for roads, ignoring “comprehensive research that outlines how to properly fund our schools.”
“Doing the same thing year after year will not yield different results,” Koleszar said in a statement. “Michigan deserves better.”
The spending plan Whitmer unveiled in March would boost K-12 education spending by $507 million to increase per-pupil allowances across the board but also to implement a “weighted formula” that allocates additional money to schools with costlier student needs.
In addition, Whitmer is pitching a 3 percent increase to community colleges and universities, compared to 1.3 percent and 1 percent respectively in the Senate plan; and 1 percent and 0.7 percent in the House budget.
Another newly elected former educator and MEA-Retired member, Sheryl Kennedy (D-Davison), told Bridge magazine she was disappointed in the budget plan approved by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on School Aid and Department of Education.
A member of the subcommittee, Kennedy argued the weighted system pushed by Whitmer “provides schools what they need, it aligns with the collaborative research that was done, and if we’re doing anything other than working in that direction, we’re not serving the children of Michigan.”
Under the governor’s plan, foundation allowances would increase between $120-180 per pupil, while the House proposes a $90-120 increase and the Senate included a $135-270 boost. Both the House and Senate reduce or eliminate funding for many categorical programs.
Ironically, the House did include $300,000 in its education spending plan to fund a study “to determine the nature of any teacher shortage in Michigan.”
MEA lobbyist Andy Neumann notes the budget likely remains at least several weeks away from final passage.
What follows are some highlights of the three different education budget recommendations:
Executive, Senate, and House recommendations for the School Aid budget
Foundation Allowance. The Governor increased foundation allowances between $120 and $180 per pupil using a 1.5x formula. The Senate increased foundation allowances between $135 and $270 per pupil using a 2x formula. The House increased foundation allowances between $90 and $180.
Special Education. The Governor increased special education reimbursement by an estimated 4% of costs. The Senate did not include any increase. The House did not include any increase.
At Risk Students. The Governor increased At-Risk funding by $102.0 million. Senate increased At-Risk Funding by $9.0 million. The House maintains the current At-Risk Funding.
Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP). The Governor increased funding by $84.0 million. The Senate increased funding by $5.0 million. The House maintains the current funding.
Career and Technical Education. The Governor increased CTE funding and changed the formula to pay an estimated 6% of the minimum foundation allowance for each high school student in a CTE program. The Senate retained current law related to per-pupil payments, but increased CTE reimbursement under Sec. 61a by $1.5 million. The House increases the CTE funding by $10 million.
Cyber Schools’ Foundation Allowances. The Governor reduced cyber schools’ foundation allowances by 20%, or $22.0 million. The Senate and the House did not include a reduction to cyber schools’ foundation allowances.
High School Per-Pupil Payments. The Governor maintained the current additional payments of $25 per high school student. The Senate and the House eliminated these additional payments.
Professional Development as Instructional Time. The Governor recommended (and the Senate included) language that would allow a district to count up to 38 hours of qualifying professional development as hours of pupil instruction. The House concurs with Governor, but revises from requiring qualifying professional development to occur after the first day and before the last day of school to requiring not more than 4 hours of professional development to take place before the first day and not more than 4 hours to take place after the last day of school.
Executive, Senate, and House recommendations for Community Colleges and Higher Ed
Community College Operations. The Governor included a 3% increase in community college operations. The increase would be distributed through the existing performance funding formula developed by the 2016 Performance Indicators Review Task Force. The formula allocates the money as follows: 30% proportional to FY19 base appropriation, 30% weighted contact hours, 10% performance improvement, 10% performance completion number, 10% performance completion rate, 5% administrative costs, 5% local strategic value. The Senate retained the performance funding formula, but provided only a 1.3% increase instead. The House recommended only a 1% increase which would be distributed through a revised performance formula.
University Operations. TheGovernor included a 3% across-the board increase based on each university’s FY 2018-19 operations funding. The Senate recommended only a 1.0% increase through the performance funding formula used in recent years. The House recommended only a 0.7% increase to the state’s universities.
Note: Regarding the School Aid Fund Shift. The Governor removed all School Aid Fund revenue ($500.2 million) in the Higher Education budget and replaced it with GF/GP. Senate did not include this fund shift. The House did include this.