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Could Gov. Whitmer’s vetoes be good news for special education, early childhood funding?

Michigan’s K-12 schools could be a big beneficiary of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s veto pen, as she signed all 16 state budgets Monday night but vetoed $128 million of state spending from the K-12 school aid fund that she described as “legislative pork” that “steals precious classroom dollars.”

The move has some educators hoping her vetoes will restore funding to levels she originally proposed.

In all, Whitmer issued 147 line-item vetoes in approving the budgets.

In her veto statement, Whitmer criticized the Republican-controlled Legislature for adopting a school aid budget that was $185 million less than what she proposed earlier this year, including in these areas:

  • $60 million less than what she wanted to spend in special education
  • $97 million in  funding for at-risk students
  • $45 million from career and technical education programs
  • $80 million from a state-funded program that provides preschool to mostly low-income students

The list provides a preview of what Whitmer might soon fight to restore.

“The budgets they passed don’t do enough to give our schools the resources they need to educate our kids,” Whitmer said in the statement. 

Media reports indicated Whitmer would likely advocate to restore funding for programs that weren’t funded to her satisfaction. She said in her statement that “additional steps will be needed to protect Michiganders, protect access to health care, and help close the skills gap, and it will take Republicans and Democrats working together to get it done.”

Whitmer’s signature avoided a state shutdown over a budget impasse. 

Rep. Lee Chatfield, the Republican speaker of the house, said the budget impasse was “silly and completely avoidable.”

“Now that her shutdown threat has been shown to be nothing more than empty words, the cameras will stop rolling and the headlines will move on. Hopefully that means she will finally accept our invitation to come back to the negotiating table and get back to work.”

Some school leaders, including Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, earlier Monday sent a letter to Whitmer urging her to “remove pork” in the budget and redirect money to benefit students.

“The budget the Legislature sent to the governor simply wasn’t good enough and we appreciate Gov. Whitmer’s willingness to make bold changes to it in whatever capacity she’s able to,” Mark Greathead, superintendent of the Woodhaven-Brownstown school district and president of the Tri-County Alliance for Public Education, said in a statement Monday night. The alliance is an organization that represents the interests of students in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties.