Whitmer to Outline Ambitious Education Budget to Address Critical Needs

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will unveil an ambitious budget plan this week that addresses Michigan’s educator shortage as well as mental health and learning needs for students.

Whitmer is proposing to provide the biggest increase in education spending in 20 years. The governor’s budget director is set to present the spending recommendations to lawmakers Wednesday.

Whitmer’s $18.4 billion preK-12 spending plan would increase the per-pupil foundation allowance by 5% ($435 per student), going from $8,700 to $9,135. On top of that, the governor is recommending additional funding for districts with a greater proportion of special education and at-risk students as well as districts with a larger share of English language learners or students enrolled in career technical education programs.

Every student in Michigan has “a birthright to a phenomenal education,” Whitmer said in a statement to the Detroit Free Press. The effects of a two-year global pandemic have hit hard on students and educators alike, she noted.

“The last few years have been hard on our students and schools, especially students with additional needs and those who come to school with economic disadvantages,” Whitmer said. “We have an opportunity right now to make lasting investments to help our kids catch up and get on track for long-term success.”

In addition to the foundation funding increase, the Associated Press reported details of a four-year, $2.3 billion educator retention plan to give $2,000 bonuses to all full-time public school employees who return to their districts in the fall of the next two school years. Part-time staff would receive prorated amounts.

Teachers and other certificated staff would receive additional bonuses of $3,000 and $4,000 in the following two years through the 2025-26 school year. New teachers and those who move into positions in Title I schools also would be eligible for the bonuses.

“Staff shortages, quarantine, increased trauma and learning loss make this job harder than ever,” Whitmer told the AP. “We have to do more to deliver for the Michiganders who show up for our kids every day.”

Whitmer’s spending blueprint outlines $600 million for scholarships to help aspiring educators pay for college, pay a stipend to student teachers and help districts build grow-your-own programs. Another $200 million would go toward mentoring and retaining early career educators.

An additional $360 million is proposed to increase mental health services in schools, according to the Detroit News.  This includes expansion of TRAILS (Transforming Research into Action to Improve the Lives of Students), a University of Michigan program that trains educators in practices that help students manage their mental health.

MEA President Paula Herbart said the governor’s ideas would move Michigan toward its goal of becoming a global leader in education. All of the money for Whitmer’s education priorities come from continued higher-than-projected revenue increases in the state — not from new taxes or federal funds.

“Governor Whitmer’s bold plan is the most transformational investment in public education we have seen in decades,” Herbart said. “The governor’s budget proposal attacks Michigan’s acute educator shortage head-on, and her plan will make a real difference in recruiting, retaining and respecting educators to help every student succeed.”

Additional increases proposed by the governor would help pay for services from districts with higher populations of students who are at-risk, English language learners, or enrolled in special education or Career Technical Education programs.

Whitmer’s budget plan also would continue a planned three-year expansion of the state’s free preschool program for eligible 4-year-olds. The preschool expansion along with a boost to funding for before- and after-school programs were touted as positive investments in Michigan’s future by business and children’s advocates alike.

“A strong foundation is critical to long-term success,” Whitmer told MLive. “Making big investments in our littlest Michiganders sets them up to succeed in school, attain higher education, and get good-paying jobs.”

Stay tuned this week to learn how you can press for passage of Whitmer’s plan to make critical investments in schools and educators at this most difficult juncture in history.

RelatedWhitmer Fields Member Questions on Educator Shortage (members only login required)

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