Local school district discuss Gov. Whitmer's proposal to increase K-12 education spending

NOW: Local school district discuss Gov. Whitmer’s proposal to increase K-12 education spending

BUCHANAN, Mich. – Schools in Michigan call Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s proposal to increase K-12 education spending a step in the right direction.

Last week Whitmer unveiled her 2019-2020 budget proposal. The plan calls for $15.4 billion for the state’s K-12 schools with $507 million in additional investments.

Whitmer’s proposal includes:

-        $235 million more to the state’s foundation allowance. Each district would get an extra $120-180 per student to help with classroom and operational expenses. The increase would continue to close the equity gap by bringing it down to $478 per student.

-        $120 million to increase services and programs available to special education students.

-        $102 million in additional funding to students with specific at-risk factors such as being economically disadvantaged.

-        $50 million to provide additional career and technical education (CTE) opportunities to students enrolled in CTE programs.   

Tim Donahue is the superintendent for Buchanan Community Schools. He touts more than 25 years of experience with the Michigan public education system.

“I’ve seen a real change from Michigan being a leader in both the performance of our schools and the funding of our schools,” said Donahue.”

He said the Michigan education system ranks low when compared to other states. According to the National Assessment of Educational Achievement, students rank in the bottom third in the nation in many subjects and grades.

Donahue explained this discourages families from moving to Michigan since parents want their kids to get a good education.

However, Donahue thinks Whitmer’s plan is encouraging.

“I’m very excited about what the governor is proposing,” said Donahue. “This is welcomed news to most K-12 districts in the state.”

He said Buchanan schools would receive an extra $180 per student which would allow the district to increase pay for teachers and administrators.

“When we attract good teachers to our classrooms and kids feel valued and respected and there’s a good relationship with the teacher and the child, all the research that I know shows that impacts student achievement,” said Donahue. “I know this is a step in the right direction.”

Donahue said the district would also benefit from the money available for CTE, special education, and at-risk programs. He said this would help the district invest in students’ future success.

“Some of these specializations for special ed, or CTE, or at-risk allow us to say if we’ve got a population of those students in our district that need a certain program – maybe they need a different staffing approach, maybe a paraprofessional, a one-on-one aid, -- the additional dollars and the differentiation in those dollars allow us to better meet those needs,” said Donahue.

Whitmer’s proposal faces an uphill battle to get through the state’s GOP dominated legislature.

Michigan House District 78 Representative, Brad Paquette, is worried about how the proposal would be paid for.

According to the AP, it’s not clear how the plan would be paid for, but Whitmer previously suggested to stop shifting K-12 funding to universities and community colleges.

Paquette said he’s also heard from districts who are worried that this additional funding would come with more regulations and lead to additional audits. Paquette said it could bog down districts.

He said it’s important to invest in education, but the state should do it in a fiscally responsible and common sense way.

“The long term investments are some of the best ones,” said Paquette. “They bring the highest amount of ROI especially to our state in terms of talent, in terms of community members and being involved and that is just something we desperately need.”

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