A week ago, the House and Senate Republicans announced that they were going to pass a budget despite not having an agreement with Governor Whitmer. This week, House leadership from both parties announced they had struck a deal to throw Democratic support behind the School Aid budget, a move that makes the deal bi-partisan and gives Republicans substantial political cover.
So what changes were House Democrats able to secure as part of this deal? There were only four changes from the conference report that MASSP broke down last week:
- $30 million in additional special education reimbursement funding, which puts the total increase over last year at $60.4 million. This means schools will see a two percent (rather than a one percent) increase in the special education reimbursement rate.
- Eliminates language that would have required districts to redirect At Risk dollars. For a number of years, the legislature has been threatening to force districts to redirect At Risk spending to pay for tutoring and similar services if they didn't hit an arbitrary 50% proficiency target in 3rd grade reading, 8th grade math, and 11th grade college and career readiness. That language was removed from the budget, not just delayed as in past years.
- Ambiguous language about closing Partnership Schools now clearly states that school closure is an option, but not a mandate.
- Eliminates new language that was added in the first conference report dealing with shared time. There has been increasing attention on shared time programs across the state as the prevalence of this practice increases. The new language that popped up late in the budget process would have changed to rules on shared time to make them more permissive, but that language got stripped in this deal.
The budget passed the Legislature Thursday by an overwhelming vote of 91-18 in the House and by a more party lines 21-17 vote in the Senate.
The bill now heads to the Governor's desk where the future is unclear. The most likely outcome at this point seems to be that the Governor will sign the bill, especially with so little time left before the end of September when lack of a budget could lead to a shut-down. But it is widely expected that the Governor will utilize her line-item veto authority liberally and strike down many vendor-specific line-items that were added by the Legislature, a move that could save the School Aid Fund and the state's general fund tens of millions of dollars.
Written by Bob Kefgen, MASSP Director of Government Relations