Addressing gaps in education, whether funding or achievement, has long been a common buzz word among politicians. That’s why it felt surreal to learn that Democrats and Republicans, in what’s been an especially contentious period of time, have finally reached an agreement that will equalize per-pupil funding across the state.
Nearly everyone in Lansing has referred to the newest school aid budget as “historic” for the level of investment in Michigan’s children and it’s all being done without raising taxes on residents. Additionally, funding will be increased for a variety of programming that’s had proven success. A boost to the Great Start Readiness Program will help the youngest of learners while directing more resources to career and technical equipment will assist those ready to enter the work force or pursue a higher degree. Special education and reading programs will also see more funding.
The budget also addresses long-term costs too including a one-time investment in the school retirement system which will hopefully free up future funding that can be directed to the classroom.
Local districts will especially welcome the fact that more rural districts will finally receive funding equal to that of other communities with bigger tax bases. As a result, per-pupil funding will be $8,700 for every student in Michigan regardless of where they live.
Even the men and women who gave it their stamp of approval can’t really fathom that it’s happened. State Rep. Gary Howell, in a press release issued by his office last week, described the funding increase to be “far more than could ever have been anticipated by even the most optimistic of expectations.”
After the year-plus-long pandemic and the learning disruptions it has caused, students, parents, teachers and administrators should feel heartened that additional resources will be coming their way in the 2021-22 school year.