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Here are Whitmer’s plans for funding schools next year, from pre-K to higher ed


Here are Whitmer’s plans for funding schools next year, from pre-K to higher ed

Feb 10, 2024 | 4:30 am ET
By Anna Liz Nichols
Here are Whitmer’s plans for funding schools next year, from pre-K to higher ed
Susan J. Demas

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed $80.7 billion state budget for the next fiscal year includes investment hikes in education from pre-K to higher learning opportunities.

Whitmer made waves last month by announcing her plan to make the first two years of community college tuition-free for high school graduates. To accomplish this goal, Whitmer outlined a $30 million increase in the $300 million Postsecondary Scholarship Fund to create the Community College Guarantee in the hopes to save about 18,000 students up to $4,820 annually on tuition.

Whitmer lays out $80.7B budget plan for FY 2025, slightly slimmer than this year’s budget

Guaranteeing high school graduates the ability to obtain a two year associate’s degree or skilled certificate without the cost of tuition would be transformational for students and the state’s workforce, Whitmer told lawmakers Wednesday while presenting her vision for the Fiscal Year 2025 budget.

“Let’s show employers that we have the workforce that they need to succeed. And let’s show parents across the nation why they should come to the state of Michigan,” Whitmer said.

Growing Michigan’s workforce and population has become an area of concern for policymakers, as the state’s workforce grows older and the overall population has a slower growth rate than other states, notably costing Michigan a congressional seat in 2022. Whitmer has appointed the Growing Michigan Together Council to tackle issues.

Whitmer’s budget plan calls for a 2.5% increase in funding for the state’s 15 public universities and 28 community colleges. 

But investments shouldn’t start just when young adults are entering the workforce, Whitmer has been saying leading up to the budget announcement. Free preschool for every 4-year-old in the state is the other major spending priority Whitmer highlighted last month during her State of the State address.

Previously, Whitmer’s goal had been to secure free preschool for all 4-year-olds by the end of 2026, but her budget proposal bumps that goal to the end of 2024 with a by investing an additional $159.5 million into that effort, including $63.5 million to enroll nearly 7,000 additional students in the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) and $35 million to create and support classrooms in underserved communities.

The base floor for per-pupil funding for school districts would be raised to $9,849, a 2.5% increase of $241 per student over this year’s level. Additionally an increase of 5% would be available for pupil costs for educating students with varying needs in their educational process.

Last year, Michigan appropriated $160 million to provide free breakfast and lunch for Michigan’s 1.4 million public school students from pre-K through 12th grade. This year, Whitmer wants to increase funding to $200 million.

Universal school meals, a newer program few states have implemented, has been a debated area of spending in other states, but has gained some bipartisan support in Michigan.

Senate Appropriations Chair Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) said in a statement this week last year’s budget which included free meals marked an important opportunity for Democrats, who’ve held leadership over both chambers of Legislature since the start of 2023, to seize the opportunity to create equity in the budget.

“Together, we crafted a 2024 state budget with a mix of transformative investments that benefit all Michiganders — like free school meals and expanded preschool — to targeted investments in the areas of greatest need,” Anthony said. “We thoughtfully managed unprecedented revenue, investing in significant improvements and areas of immediate need while also balancing the budget, paying down debt and  investing money in the state’s future stability and fiscal needs. I share in Gov. Whitmer’s pride in these accomplishments in the last budget, and share her commitment to these principles moving forward.”

But Republican leadership is not impressed with how Democrats have handled having the majority of both chambers of the Legislature for the first time in nearly 40 years.

House Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Richland Twp.) offered his assessment of the governor’s priorities in a statement Wednesday.

“The governor wants to help rich people buy new electric vehicles, while yet again ignoring the crumbling county roads and city streets that she has neglected for the past five years,” Hall said.

By freeing up funding that normally works to reduce government pension liabilities in the Michigan Public School Employees’ Retirement System, the budget frees up $670 million that State Budget Director Jen Flood said Wednesday can be invested into school projects.

“There’s no investment with a greater return than investing in our kids,” Flood said. “When you look at early childhood, when you look at K-12 and how do we make Michigan a top 10 state, now is the time to inject those resources into our schools.”

FY25 Budget Book


But Hall said Whitmer is robbing teachers after Republicans for years worked to protect teachers’ retirement benefits.

“At the same time, the governor is asking for working families to pay for free college for rich kids. And in our K-12 schools, while spending keeps increasing, Michiganders want real solutions,” Hall said, noting Michigan’s poor state ranking in reading scores. “The people of Michigan deserve a government that works for them and delivers value for their dollars. The governor’s budget of misplaced priorities doesn’t cut it.”

Whitmer is calling for a $251.2 million allocation towards supporting student literacy, including $10 million for reading training programs for educational professionals like the Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS). 

Significant allocations towards funding mental health resources in Michigan are recommended, including a $350,000 investment in school safety and mental health resources to provide individualized care for students through training and personnel.