Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer rolled out her proposal for a current year budget supplemental that would allocate roughly $2 billion to K-12 education. The proposal, which is being called the Michigan COVID Recovery Plan, would distribute the entirety of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund dollars that Michigan received in the latest round of federal stimulus spending plus $300 million in one-time School Aid Fund dollars.
Here's a breakdown of the key details of today's proposal:
- Michigan received roughly $1.6 billion of ESSER funding. Of that, 90 percent or roughly $1.4 billion, was directed by Congress to flow directly to local districts based on the Title 1a formula.
- Under the proposal, the remaining 10 percent – which the state has discretion to distribute differently – would be combined with $300 million of additional, one-time School Aid Fund money, for a total of $457 million and distributed as follows:
- 50% would be allocated on a flat per pupil basis to all districts in the state;
- 50% would be allocated on a flat amount per special education FTE.
- Because ISDs receive no money under the Title 1a formula, $10 million of the discretionary money would be earmarked specifically to ISDs.
- All of these dollars have some limitations on their use. MDE has put out a pair of memos (memo #1, memo #2) detailing those allowable uses. However, those allowable uses are quite broad and are not likely to prevent districts from spending the funds.
For those wondering why these dollars are not just being rolled into the foundation allowance, understand that the funds are all one-time. Even the School Aid Fund dollars are a one-time windfall because Michigan's economic downturn wasn't initially as bad as expected and the state budgeted more conservatively than it had to, leaving money on the table for one year.
Another important element of today's proposal is that it calls for all of this funding to flow to districts immediately. This will mean a lot of money for some districts and there is a limited time to allocate ESSER funding (approximately until September 2023) or it lapses back to the federal government. And while the time limit may not be a factor for some, all districts need to have certainty about this funding sooner than later to begin planning for things like summer school programs or student mental health support.
Finally, today's proposal is just that, a proposal. The Michigan Legislature must act before these funds can flow to local districts. Even though the bulk of the money being allocated by this proposal is already earmarked to go out on the Title 1a formula and the state has no discretion in how to spend it, the money must still be appropriated by the Michigan Legislature, meaning that it is going to be subject to debate and political maneuvering on both sides.