Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to propose $507M boost in K-12 spending

Posted at 11:24 AM, Mar 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-04 13:28:51-05

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will propose a $507 million increase in state K-12 classroom spending in her first budget, including a $180 boost to the minimum per-student grant and substantial funding hikes to teach Michigan’s low-income, vocational and special education students.

The Democrat also was expected Tuesday to call for new “weighted” formula to factor in higher costs for certain students. The plan includes $235 million in additional base aid — a 2.5 percent bump — along with $120 million more for special education, an extra $102 million for economically disadvantaged and other at-risk students, and $50 million more for career and technical education students.

Whitmer’s administration is billing it as the largest increase in classroom spending in 18 years, if state payments for retirement costs are not counted.

Whitmer also will propose tripling the number of literacy coaches statewide from 93 to 279. She wants to drop a requirement that county-level districts split half of the cost, and instead have the state fund them entirely. The coaches have been hired in recent years to help local districts and charter schools in advance of a law that, starting next academic year, requires third-graders to be held back if they lag in reading.

The minimum per-student allowance — which most districts receive, including charters — would increase from $7, 871 to $8,051, a $180 increase. Districts at the higher end would get $8,529, or $120 more than the current $8,409 allotment.

The increased funding for at-risk and vocational students would be distributed as a multiplier on top of the base grant, while existing money would be apportioned as it is under current law. The approach reflects Whitmer’s goal to base funding on the actual cost to educate students with different needs. It’s also an initial step toward phasing in recommendations from the School Finance Research Collaborative, a group of education, business and civic leaders that contends the current system is broken.

Whitmer’s proposed boost spending for at-risk students, to $619 million — a 20 percent increase — would be the third big spike in five years. The funds help schools provide additional supports, such as tutoring and counseling, to low-income and other disadvantaged students who account for half of Michigan’s 1.5 million students. The funding would equate to $894 per at-risk student, up from about $720.

Overall spending on career and tech education, or CTE, would more than double to $109 million. Schools now get $25 for each ninth- through 12th-grader enrolled and another $25 for each student learning “critical skills.” Districts could qualify for $487 per CTE student under Whitmer’s budget, according to a document summarizing her new proposed funding formula.

Whitmer has been emphasizing the need to better prepare people to enter the workforce.