LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) — Give up your epidemic powers if you want us to release billions in funding for schools in Michigan.
That the message some House Republicans are sending the governor, as they release a new COVID-19 response plan. It came on Wednesday before Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D-Michigan) delivered her State of the State address.
Michigan House Appropriations Committee Chair Thomas Albert (R-86th District) says the COVID-19 Response plan promises to provide 2.1 billion dollars to schools - hit hard by the costs of COVID-19.
“We have a lot of resources to get our kids caught back up we have kids that are 1, 2 maybe more grade levels behind right now,” said State Representative Albert.
But there is a catch. Representative Albert said the funding is contingent upon approval of a law moving power to close in-person learning and sports activities away from the governor’s administration to local health departments.
Right now the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, part of the governor’s administration, has the power to issue health orders.
“Our local health officials can make decisions about what is best for our kids. I have better access to my local health officials. I can have input on whether my kids have instruction. Right now the decisions are being made too far from those impacted the most,” said State Representative Albert.
“That is a classic example of using children as a pawn in some kind of partisan power struggle,” said Robert McCann, Executive Director of the K-12 Alliance of Michigan.
He says he is concerned that tying the funds to protect children from COVID-19 academically and health-wise, to how much power the governor and the state health department have will delay those funds from reaching students. This comes after the governor called on all schools to offer in-person learning by March first.
“Here we are at the eleventh hour trying to get all schools open with a group of legislators saying we are going to hold that funding hostage to score political power points with the governor,” said McCann.
State Representative Albert said he is not worried about this contingency delaying funding getting to schools.
“I am going to use the tools I have in the legislature to have a change here going forward,” said State Representative Albert.