July 1, 2022, Bridge Michigan: Michigan boosts K-12 special education, teacher hiring, mental health funds https://www.bridgemi.com/talent-education/michigan-boosts-k-12-special-education-teacher-hiring-mental-health-funds
Michigan lawmakers agreed to hundreds of millions of dollars in new special education funding as part of a new state budget in which they tapped a historic surplus to pass one of the most sweeping school spending plans in decades.
Teacher recruitment, school security, mental health and the teacher pension system will also get significant new support under the budget, which was approved early Friday morning after a marathon session that began Thursday.
The $19 billion school aid budget is a 12 percent increase over last year’s budget, though smaller than the $21.7 billion budget passed in the first year of the pandemic.
The budget includes a $450-per-pupil funding increase, or 5 percent. That’s more than the $435 increase Whitmer proposed in February, a reflection of a fiscal situation in Michigan that has steadily improved in recent months thanks to a post-pandemic consumer spending boom and an influx of federal COVID relief funds. The increase will cost the state $630 million and bring the basic school funding formula to $9,150 per pupil for most districts….
SPECIAL EDUCATION FUNDING The new budget will sharply increase funding for students with disabilities. Districts will get 75 percent more per pupil with disabilities than they do for students without disabilities. They will also be reimbursed for 28 percent of their spending on special education, continuing past practice….
All told, the state will spend roughly an additional $312 million on students with special needs to address long-running concerns among educators that the state was failing to recognize the true cost of providing special education services. These concerns gained urgency amid the shift to online schooling during the pandemic, when many students with disabilities struggled to access education.
In 2017, a report from a group led by former Lt. Gov. Brian Calley estimated that special education in Michigan was underfunded by $700 million.
The increase in funding still falls short of recommendations by the School Finance Research Collaborative, a nonpartisan group of experts who found that adequately funding education in Michigan would require substantially larger increases for students with moderate and severe disabilities….
Amid worries that the pandemic exacerbated a youth mental health crisis, the budget invests $150 million for per pupil payments to districts for mental health programming, such as hiring support staff. Lawmakers also agreed to a $50 million funding boost for TRAILS, a mental health program developed by researchers at the University of Michigan. And school-based health centers, which have drawn attention as an effective means of addressing students’ mental health needs, among other health issues, received a $25 million investment. AT-RISK STUDENTS
Lawmakers set aside $747 million to support students at risk of falling behind in school, an increase of $223 million. Pupils qualify as “at risk” in Michigan based on a range of factors including homelessness, academic difficulties, a history of abuse, being English learners, or being eligible for the federal free lunch program. Districts receive the money on a per-pupil basis. Last year, the state dedicated $512 million to funding for at-risk students. DETROIT GSRP
Detroit will not be allowed to administer grants for the Great Start Readiness Program under the budget, despite efforts by Mayor Mike Duggan to increase the city’s influence over early childhood education. GSRP is the state’s high-quality, free preschool program for 4-year-olds. Only county education agencies are allowed to fund and regulate GSRP programs.
The city had argued that its resources could help bring more children into GSRP. But some observers warned that the change could create counterproductive competition between the city and county for students.
PRESCHOOL FOR 3-YEAR-OLDS
State leaders will provide $2.2 million to continue Strong Beginnings, a program designed to test the cost and effectiveness of Michigan’s state preschool model with 3-year-olds.
The program operated in a dozen classrooms across Michigan last year. Supporters view it as a small first step toward a state preschool system that serves 3- and 4-year-olds. …
Gov. Whitmer, shown here speaking in favor of a tutoring proposal in May, has reached a budget deal for 2022-23 with leading GOP lawmakers. (State of Michigan)