Gov. Whitmer signs 'historic' school budget, says it sets 'solid foundation'

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Correction: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed $155 million in reading scholarships that were to be administered by Grand Valley State University from the budget. An earlier version of this story indicated that was included. 

Lansing — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a $17.1 billion budget for K-12 education into law Tuesday with her office calling it the largest investment in schools in state history.

The bipartisan bill brings an overall funding boost of about 10% over the current year, equalizes the base foundation allowance of schools across the state and puts more money into prekindergarten education.

"The funding provided to our schools today marks the end of a 27-year journey to close the gap between our districts," Whitmer said. "This equalized funding will improve the quality of educational opportunities for schools and students across the state and set a solid foundation for which to build our future.”

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a new budget for K-12 education at Kentwood Public Schools on Tuesday, July 13, 2021.

The Democratic governor signed the budget during an event at Kentwood Public Schools on Tuesday afternoon. The Republican-controlled Legislature approved the funding plan on June 30, hours before a self-imposed deadline for a new budget for the fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1.

The plan comes as the legislators and the governor contemplate how to allocate billions of dollars in surplus funds and COVID-19 relief money from the federal government. The new budget uses increases in revenue to close the funding gap between districts in their base foundation allowances — a key objective of both Whitmer and majority Republican lawmakers.

Under the budget, the state's base foundation allowance will be $8,700 per student. In the current year, the minimum foundation allowance was set at $8,111, and the maximum guaranteed foundation allowance was $8,529.

For decades, there have been differences in funding levels among Michigan school districts. Lawmakers have been gradually working to close the divide between those that receive the most money per student and those that receive the least.

The legislation includes $240 million for school nurses and counselors and $168 million for the state's prekindergarten Great Start Readiness Program.

“Every budget is about choices. This budget expands Great Start Readiness Program prekindergarten and puts in place a three-year plan to move to universal prekindergarten for all eligible students, the first goal of the state’s Top 10 strategic education plan and a gift that will keep on giving throughout the education and lives of our children," said Michael Rice, the state superintendent.

In a press release from the governor's office, both House Appropriations Chairman Thomas Albert, R-Lowell, and Vice Chairman Joe Tate, D-Detroit, labeled the budget "historic."

"After the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, our kids need unprecedented support to catch up on lost learning and return to normalcy," Albert said. "This measure provides that support for kids no matter where they live or go to school.” 

Tate called the funding plan a "transformational investment."