On Thursday, Governor Whitmer presented her Executive Budget Recommendation for the 2020-21 school year to a joint meeting of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. The Governor's recommendation calls for a 2X foundation allowance increase and some small bumps in spending for At Risk, special education, English language learners, and small and isolated school districts. Noting that the state has a significant chunk of one-time revenue, the recommendation also proposes significant one-time spending in payments to districts to offset losses due to declining enrollment. It also sets aside a big chunk of funding to pay for the yet-to-be-determined recommendations of the Student Recovery Advisory Council of Michigan.

It's important to note along with some positives that the Governor's budget recommendation also diverts roughly $850 million in School Aid Fund dollars to programs outside of PK-12 education: $425M to community college, $361M to higher ed, and $55M for the Filter First program (one time funding to install bottle filling stations in schools, though without any ongoing funding for upkeep). Those are all increases over last year.

Here are the major highlights that secondary principals will want to know:

  • A $82-164 per pupil increase in the foundation allowance using the 2X formula. This would increase base per-pupil funding to $8,275 (a 2% increase) for districts at the state minimum foundation allowance and $8,611 (a 1% increase) for districts at the state maximum foundation allowance. It would also reduce the gap between the highest and lowest funded districts to $336 per pupil.
  • A one-time allocation of $200 million to offset declining enrollment in districts that suffer pupil loss in the 2021-22 school year. Especially because the pupil count blend for next school year reverts to the traditional formula (90% based on 2021-22 fall count and 10% based on 2020-21 winter count), districts are expected to see falloff in pupil enrollment this coming school year. This proposal would pay districts an estimated 70% of the foundation allowance they would have received if they did not have any pupil enrollment decline year-over-year (though that percentage may be lower depending on how great actual student loss turns out to be).
  • $250 million in one-time funding is set aside to pay the anticipated costs of implementing the recommendations of the Student Recovery Advisory Council of Michigan. That group – which includes  JoLynn Clark, the Principal of Frankenmuth High School along with 28 other educators and experts – has been tasked with making recommendations for state policy makers and guidance for school districts to maximize successful post-pandemic recovery for students. 
  • $14.1 million to provide a 2% increase in total state spending on At Risk, state reimbursements for special education services, English language learners (ELL), and small and isolated districts. Note that the 2% increase refers to an increase in total funding, NOT an increase of 2 percentage points in the case of things like the special education reimbursement rate. While the total amount of the increase is small, it continues the Governor's push to invest in a weighted foundation allowance. It also marks the first time that funding for small and isolated districts has been increased in quite some time. 
  • $80 million in proposed one-time state general fund spending for summer learning and engagement targeted to students who are economically disadvantaged. The funds are proposed for spending during both the summer of 2021 and the summer of 2022 and can be award either to local districts or community based organizations.
  • The budget retains, but does not increase the $35-70 per pupil incentive payments for CTE students.
  • Language allowing up to 38 hours of qualifying professional development to count as instructional time is also retained. The rules for counting time would remain unchanged.
  • As has been proposed in several previous executive budgets dating back to the Snyder administration, this one also proposes capping the foundation allowance for cyber schools that are Schools of Excellence (i.e., statewide charter cybers) at 80% of the brick and mortar charter school foundation allowance. The savings to the state from this change totals $30.2 million.
  • $39 million in one-time spending, funded by federal governor's Education Entity Relief dollars to pay for a variety of smaller programs aimed at supporting schools in recovering from the pandemic in various way. Those smaller programs include expansions of student mental health supports the TRAILS program, staff mental health supports through Opportunity THRIVE, and after-school programs through the Michigan After School Partnership. There is also funding to help identify and locate the many students who have been absent from school during this school year.

COVID Response Supplemental, Next Steps, & Resources

Traditionally, the Governor's executive budget recommendation marks the beginning of the budget process, but this year things got a jump start as the Governor and Legislature have already started negotiations on various versions of a COVID-19 response supplemental budget. With that in mind, think of today's budget as just the next step in an already ongoing process of negotiations.

Why does that matter? Because all of these various proposals and negotiations are going to get intertwined with elements spilling over between them. And they are likely to be resolved in stages, with a supplemental budget passing first. This means that a bad idea won't truly be dead until the last budget passes without it. And a good idea isn't necessarily safe even if it makes it into the very first budget and passes without debate. Or, on a more hopeful note, there will be plenty of opportunities to improve things before the end of the budget process.

The next step in the process starts now...the Legislature will formally begin its budget hearings soon while negotiations continue on a supplemental. Educators can expect the debate to play itself out over the next several months. The exact timeline is unclear, but MASSP will be working with our partners in the education community to push for a final K-12 budget by the beginning of June.

For more details on the Governor's budget recommendation you can visit the state's budget website.