On Wednesday, it appeared that state House Democrats were joining forces with their Republican colleagues to pass a $15.2 billion K-12 budget for 2020.
But this morning, with that education budget headed to Gov. Whitmer for her signature, numerous Democrats in the Senate blasted the spending plan as short-sighted and short-changing Michigan students.
The Republican-designed budget would increase spending by 2.4 percent, less than the 3.5 percent hike proposed by Whitmer. The per-pupil funding increases, between $120 and $240 per student, is more than Whitmer sought. But the governor’s proposed boost in funding for special education and at-risk students, as well as pre-school programs and vocational education, were not approved by the GOP majorities in the House and Senate.
The most significant concession made by Republican leaders was a $30 million increase for special ed services. Roughly two-thirds of House Democrats voted for the final version.
“We’ve come together. We’ve reached an agreement and we want to get our schools funded,” Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) told The Detroit News. “I’m happy to stand on a bipartisan way with a product that I think is very healthy.”
However, in the Senate all Democrats oppose the budget, citing a long history of K-12 schools coming up short annually at budget time.
“K-12 schools are going to get 25 percent less money in inflation-adjusted dollars compared to 15 years ago,” said Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor). “We’re asking schools and teachers to do more with less. We continue to fall behind and costs continue to go up.”
Paula Herbart, president of the Michigan Education Association (MEA) teachers’ union, called the spending plan a good first step in the short run.
“But it is only a step. It addresses only a fraction of the $2,000 gap in per-pupil funding schools face.
“… We also must recognize that there is not enough revenue for our state government to fully fund our state’s priorities, including education and infrastructure. Whatever revenue options you prefer, they won’t be passed into law to fund our schools and fix our roads unless we create the political will with our leaders in Lansing to make it happen.”
House Minority Leader Chris Greig (D-Farmington Hills) said compromises were necessary to get the budget completed quickly to avoid a government shutdown and to let school districts know what funding they will have for this new school year. To avoid a partial shutdown on Oct. 1, all the state department budgets are expected to be presented to the governor by lawmakers on Tuesday.
“We want to get the best (K-12) budget we could get to the governor,” Greig said. “She asked us for a budget this week and we’re getting it to her as requested.”