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Michigan lawmakers OK school aid budget that includes incentive cash for new teachers, small boost in pupil funding

An empty classroom with chairs upside down on desks.
Michigan lawmakers approved a school aid budget that will provide a small, one-time per-pupil increase for school districts and charter schools.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Michigan school districts would get a small, one-time funding boost, first-year teachers would get stipends, and new programs would address attendance loss and help students with online learning.

Those plans are part of a $17.65 billion K-12 school aid budget for the 2020-21 school year approved Wednesday by the Michigan Legislature.

State leaders had previously announced a budget deal without the school funding cuts local school leaders had expected due to pandemic-influenced drops in state revenue. On Wednesday, the details were released. The bill now goes to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who is expected to sign it.

Here are the major highlights, based on legislative analyses:

  • School districts would receive a one-time payment of $65 per pupil.
  • The budget sets aside $66 million for school districts with increasing enrollment that would have been negatively impacted by a recent shift in the way enrollment is calculated.
  • The budget includes $5 million for a statewide teacher retention program. It would provide stipends of between $500 and $1,000 to first-year teachers who complete the 2020-21 school year. The higher payment would go to teachers in districts where 70% or more of the students are considered economically disadvantaged and the districts must provide a $500 match.
  • The budget includes $2 million for a new attendance recovery program.
  • Another $2 million would be set aside to address students’ virtual learning needs.
  • There would be an additional $5.6 million (for a total of $36.9 million) for mental health and support services in schools.

Amber Arellano, executive director of the Education Trust-Midwest, applauded a budget that protects children by not cutting school funding. Her organization, which promotes education research and advocacy, has been pushing lawmakers to shield vulnerable children from any funding cuts.

“A similar bipartisan focus now must be a priority to address the structural inequities in Michigan’s school funding system, particularly to avoid worsening the devastating opportunity and achievement gaps that were prevalent long before the school shutdowns this past spring,” Arellano said in a statement. “We need a new — and better — normal for Michigan children, especially for vulnerable students.

Aaron Miller, a Republican state representative from Sturgis — and a former teacher — said in a statement that his budget priorities included addressing teacher shortages and declines in the number of people entering the profession.

“Our teachers deserve appreciation and thanks,” Miller said. “To encourage new educators to stay in the profession we are offering a ‘new teacher’ stipend of up to $1,500. As they start their careers, it’s important they know they are valued for their efforts and contributions to our state. I was inspired to implement this incentive after speaking to Northern Michigan University teacher education students.”

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