LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Republican-led Michigan Senate on Wednesday approved a 5% increase in base funding for K-12 schools but pared back Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's proposals to recruit and retain teachers and did not include her proposed $1 billion fund for school infrastructure projects.
The $17.8 billion school aid bill, which was advanced 20-15 along mostly party lines, sets the stage for broader budget talks with the Democratic governor and the House, where majority Republicans started passing their own blueprint Wednesday.
The base per-student grant would rise by $450, to $9,150, under the Senate's 2022-23 proposal — slightly more than Whitmer's suggested $435. A $500 million grant program would be created to help combining districts retire some of their debt to avoid raising property taxes. Schools could get $50 more per pupil to address pandemic-related learning loss.
Sen. Wayne Schmidt, a Traverse City Republican who oversees the school budget, called it a "very good first start."
Democrats unsuccessfully tried amending the bill so it would more closely align with what the governor outlined in February.
Whitmer has called for $1 billion to be spent upgrading school buildings over six years, which is not in the Senate plan.
She wants $2.3 billion over this fiscal year and the next to recruit and retain educators. That would include awarding annual bonuses to teachers and other staff, competitive college scholarships to would-be educators, stipends to student teachers and "grow-your-own" grants to help districts support staff who want to become certified as teachers. The Senate bill has about $30 million, mostly for student teachers.
Additional retention and recruitment funding would ensure that educators "have the support and recognition they deserve for the challenging and essential work that they do," said Sen. Winnie Brinks, a Grand Rapids Democrat who voted against the legislation. The bill also would allocate less than what the governor requested for student mental health and school safety.
Schmidt said nothing is finalized and funding could be added during negotiations. He noted that the legislation would expand the number of school-based health clinics and boost aid to train and retail mental health staff.
While the next fiscal year begins in October, legislators at a minimum target completing the K-12 budget before July — the start of districts' budget year. The Senate passed most of its overall $74.2 billion spending plan on Tuesday. The House is expected to finish advancing its proposal Thursday.
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