Michigan House OKs education budget with $100 more per pupil

Posted at 7:57 PM, May 02, 2017

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Base funding would increase by $100 per student under a $16.3 billion education budget approved Tuesday by a divided Michigan House, which also voted to give schools significantly more to teach low-income kids as requested by Gov. Rick Snyder.

The minimum foundation grant would rise to $7,611, or 1.3 percent, next school year. The basic level would jump to $8,329, or 1.2 percent. The Republican governor instead has proposed a $100 boost for the lower-funded schools and a $50 increase for the higher-funded ones — sticking with a formula used in the previous two years to reduce the gap in funding across districts.

The GOP-controlled House rejected Snyder’s call for an extra $50 in funding for each high school student and set aside more in at-risk funding — less than Snyder but still a 34 percent increase.

Overall spending on pre-K through 12 education would increase 1 percent to $14.3 billion in the fiscal year that starts in October, which drew criticism from Democrats who opposed the bill and at least one Republican who reluctantly voted for it.

“Schools deserve better than a 1.3 percent in the foundation grant,” said Rep. Dave Pagel of Berrien Springs, who decried the continued transfer of school aid funds to general spending. But Rep. Tim Kelly, Saginaw Township Republican who crafted the legislation, said “record amounts” would be spent on K-12 education and what was passed will not be the final version.

Michigan’s 15 public universities overall would see 1.9 percent more in a $1.6 billion higher education budget, with increases varying by schools, as long as tuition and fee hikes are capped at 3.8 percent. Democrats noted that five universities would still receive less than they did seven years ago and said K-12 districts would fare worse under the House proposal than under Snyder’s. They also criticized how cyber schools would be funded the same as traditional schools.

The community colleges budget would be cut slightly, by 0.2 percent.

The House, which approved the bill 60-47, could pass a $39.5 billion general budget later Tuesday night. Once the GOP-led Senate OKs its own spending plan this week and revised tax revenue estimates are released in mid-May, legislative leaders and Snyder plan to craft a final budget by early June.

The Senate wants to boost per-pupil funding by between $88 and $176 by spending $100 million less than Snyder proposed to reimburse districts for their retirement costs.

While majority Republicans largely are in line with Snyder on overall education spending — if not on some specifics such as his desire to see less go toward educating private school and home-schooled children — they are more at odds with him over general spending. The House bill potentially up for a vote later Tuesday would spend $272 million less than Snyder’s plan.

House Speaker Tom Leonard and Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof have both said a priority is to exclude newly hired teachers from being eligible for a pension to address long-term debt — a move that has been opposed by Snyder previously due to large up-front costs of such a switch. New teachers instead would qualify for a 401K plan.