Snyder signs $16.8 billion education budget

Jonathan Oosting
The Detroit News
Governor Rick Snyder shows the crowd a countdown clock he gave budget workers on his first budget bill while making comments before signing the current budget bill, months ahead of schedule, in a ceremony on the steps of the Capitol in Lansing on Thursday, June 21, 2018. This is Snyder's eighth and final budget as governor.

Lansing — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Friday signed his last education budget before leaving office, a $16.8 billion spending plan for fiscal year 2019 that includes the state's largest per-pupil school allowance increase in more than 15 years.

K-12 districts will see a funding increase of between $120 and $240 per student under the bill, which completes a $56.8 billion budget that includes $39.9 billion in general government spending that Snyder approved last week.

The final budget of Snyder’s tenure continues to reverse cuts made his first year in office when the Republican governor signed a budget that reduced per-pupil funding by $300 million.

The lowest-funded school districts in Michigan will receive a $7,871 foundation allowance next year, up 3.1 percent from $7,631 the current year and up a total of 15 percent from $6,846 in 2012, according to data from the non-partisan Senate Fiscal Agency.

The new education budget includes $14.7 billion in K-12 funding, $408 million for community colleges and $1.7 billion for higher education.

Democrats largely opposed the education budget. Some criticized a $908 million shift in School Aid Fund revenue toward community colleges and universities, a practice that began under former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, but has continued and grown under Snyder.

Snyder on Tuesday signed a separate $100 million spending bill for a talent initiative he has dubbed the “Marshall Plan,” which seeks to prepare students for careers in high-tech jobs that do not necessarily require a college degree.

The talent plan includes more than $24 million in scholarships for low-income students seeking a degree or credential in a high-demand field, $18 million in competitive grants for school equipment and nearly $30 million for districts to create or expand new programs.

“Michigan’s future depends largely on the success of our students in both the K-12 system, as well as our colleges and universities," Snyder said in a budget statement. "Coupled with the Marshall Plan for Talent, this funding continues to provide Michigan students with pathways to successful outcomes."

The education budget includes controversial boilerplate language designed to penalize low-performing school districts that don’t meet requirements of “partnership agreements” they signed with the state to avoid closure.

The budget provides $400 million of discretionary foundation allowance to the partnership districts if they meet the conditions of their agreements within 18 and 36 months. Failure to meet the benchmarks would trigger school closure or reconstitution.

Reconstitution would require the district to change its “instruction and non-academic programming,” replace at least a quarter of faculty and staff, and replace the principal unless the principal has been there less than three years.

The harsher penalties for under-performing partnership schools create yet another deterrent to people considering a teaching career, said Rep. Robert Kosowski, the ranking democrat for school aid on the House Appropriations Committee.

"I just think it's pretty tough for them to be gung-ho when they know the state can come in and fire 25 percent," the Westland Democrat said. "I believe in accountability, but I also believe this is an attack on the members of our unions.”