Michigan House approves record funding for schools in newest budget

A bipartisan vote and a ton of extra money. That's the state of Michigan's politics, at least in talks about its budget, which received a 105-3 approving vote and about a $1.2 billion increase in education spending last night.

That big number translates to $8,700 per student funding from the state or about 7% more for most districts and charter schools. The funding approval meets a milestone decades in the making by closing the student funding gap that has persisted for 27 years.

And that doesn't include the $1,093 more per pupil which schools will also receive in federal funding as part of a massive aid package approved earlier this year by President Joe Biden. Districts that have more money will be getting an additional $171 per pupil, which is about a 2% increase. 

The education funding was part of a $65 billion budget approved by the Republican-controlled House, which struck a deal with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The Michigan Senate has yet to agree to the budget and has a week to vote on it before the July 1 deadline. 

"This is the budget Michigan families have been asking us to deliver. ... We're finally eliminating the inequality in our funding system that treated students from different districts as though they had different values," said Rep. Mary Whiteford, a Republican from Allegan County's Casco Township. 

The next fiscal year does not start until Oct. 1. But a 2019 law, enacted after a budget impasse, requires lawmakers to send Whitmer a plan by July 1. It could be delayed like it was in 2020 if a deal is not struck.

The fiscal year for school districts begins July 1, however, and superintendents are pressing legislators for clarity as they finalize spending following a tumultuous academic year and lost learning during the coronavirus pandemic.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas, a Midland Republican, told reporters he was "anxious" to see the House's general and K-12 budget bills and said he has always been supportive of payments to help districts that stand to get less federal pandemic funding because they have fewer low-income students.

"We want to work with the House and the governor's office on getting this done" by July 1, Stamas said in a later statement, adding that if a deal is not reached next week, schools got substantial dollars in previous federal relief laws.

The Associated Press contributed to this report