September 30, 2023 3:14 pm

Local News

With $17 billion spending bill, Michigan’s education system seeks boost In statewide equity

Credit: iStock

Reinette LeJeune

In June of 2021, Governor Whitmer signed a landmark spending bill in the hopes of bringing “comprehensive student recovery” to schools as they emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill’s main goal is closing the funding gap between the highest and lowest funded school districts – a problem the state has been combating since the passage of Proposal A in 1994, which established the per-pupil payment system in place today. 

“Every student deserves to be funded at the same level to ensure an equal opportunity to succeed. I am proud to say that we are able to do that today,” Governor Whitmer said as she signed the bill, “You’ve heard me say we need ‘comprehensive student recovery,’ again and again. We want students to thrive academically, mentally, emotionally, and physically!”

The bill totaled $17.1 billion for the 2021-2022 school year, which includes $85.4 million from the state’s General Fund, and ensures school districts across Michigan receive the same baseline funding of $8,700 for each student. The $589 increase per student marks a 10% boost to K–12 education compared to the previous year’s budget. Education experts are citing the bill as the largest education investment in Michigan history.

The new budget has allowed districts across the state to invest in facility repairs, new textbooks and sports equipment, as well as security and utility upgrades. $168 million went towards the state’s pre-kindergarten Great Start Readiness Program, which is estimated to have added 22,000 more children to its participation rosters. Small, rural, and isolated districts saw a $1.4 million increase, and economically disadvantaged districts were also provided $1.5 million for dental screenings, along with further investment for English language learners statewide. A $2.4 million increase was also provided for the continued support of children impacted by the drinking water crisis in Flint. 

Proposal A, passed in 1994, eliminated the use of local property taxes as sources for school funding and replaced them with a new state education tax, in the hopes of curbing district funding gaps. Despite these efforts, however, dozens of affluent districts across Michigan have maintained advantages in funding, with some schools receiving well over $10,000 per student.