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Whitmer travels to northern MI to sign K-12 budget

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer greets students at a ceremony in Suttons Bay to sign a $25.3 billion school funding bill for the coming fiscal year.
Ellie Katz
Interlochen Public Radio
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer greets students at a ceremony in Suttons Bay to sign a $25.3 billion school funding bill for the coming fiscal year.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer traveled to Suttons Bay in Northern Michigan Thursday to sign the state's new pre-K through 12th grade education budget.

The spending plan for the coming fiscal year is a record-setting $24.3 billion. The governor said the programs funded by the budget will be a big step toward education equity across the state. The new per-student foundation allowance will be $9,608 with more for categories such as students with disabilities, from low-income families and English-language learners.

“This is how we level the playing field,” Whitmer said. “This is how we ensure that every student is prepared to be successful.”

The budget will expand the availability of preschool, pay for free breakfast and lunch for all students, and create a “rainy day” fund for schools to help ensure school spending won’t decline in tougher times. The budget also has money for tutoring and mental health services, as well as incentives to encourage college students to go into teaching.

“You know, you won’t see it overnight but these investments over time are going to pay off massive dividends for the Michigan economy, but most importantly for the success of our kids as we hope they will build their lives and make great lives here in the state of Michigan,” Whitmer said.

Although some GOP lawmakers voted for the budget, Republican leaders disparaged the spending plan in e-mail blasts.

Whitmer was joined at the signing ceremony by the Legislature’s Democratic leaders. A handful of Republicans voted for the Pre-K-through-grade-12 budget, but GOP leaders said the spending plan is laden with pork.

House Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Richland Twp.) said funds directed toward district projects could have been used to further boost the per-pupil allowance.

“While Republicans called for our state to invest resources to boost classroom learning, Democrats squeezed $2 billion for pork and new programs into the school budget — wasting money that could have provided nearly $1,400 more for each Michigan student,” he said in a written statement.

Democrats, not surprisingly, defended the budget.

“We’re bringing new approaches to age-old problems, like supporting intervention programs that help kids with specific challenges, ensuring every student has a meal to eat during the school day, and making teacher education more affordable,” said Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids).

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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