Earlier this year, I highlighted the tremendous opportunity we had with our state budget surplus and federal relief dollars to close the funding gap between Michigan schools and help our children and educators. to thrive after the pandemic is over. Recently the legislature came to the table, and this week I signed a bipartisan bill making historic investments in Michigan’s children without raising taxes.
Together, we are closing the funding gap between schools, expanding early childhood education for low- and middle-income families, and providing resources for districts to hire more counselors, nurses and social workers. By making these essential investments in our children, from Kindergarten to graduation, we are setting up a generation of Michiganders for success.
Investing in great K-12 public schools creates a solid foundation. But today, Michiganders need an education after high school to make sure they have the skills they need to find a high paying job, start a business, or pursue their passion. Employers across the state also need skilled workers.
This is why I am committed to expanding Michigan Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners, two innovative programs we launched to give Michiganders 25 and older and those who served on the frontlines of the pandemic a tuition-free path. towards higher education or vocational training. A total of 160,000 Michiganders have signed up for these programs which will help us meet our broader goal of 60 by 30, of having 60% of Michiganders complete post-secondary education or vocational training by 2030. By expanding our workforce effective programs, we can help Michiganders thrive from preschool through post-secondary education and help our small businesses succeed.
When we put Michigan students first, we can ensure that every child in the state has the academic, physical and mental support they need to be successful. The two bills I have signed support a full recovery for our children after a year of unprecedented challenges. They are a testament to what we can do when we work together to make changes that make a real difference in people’s lives.
This year, thanks to our effective management of the pandemic and a faster-than-expected economic recovery, we have a budget surplus of $ 3.5 billion, compared to a projected deficit of $ 3 billion. In other words, we have a lot more resources than we thought at the start of the pandemic. On top of that, we also received billions of dollars in state aid from federal legislation last year and President Biden’s US bailout this year.
We are taking advantage of this huge and unexpected influx of resources and investing in schools to meet the needs of our children. By seizing this opportunity, the people, small businesses and economy of Michigan will reap the dividends decades later, because a state where everyone has the skills and the opportunity to succeed is a state where we all prosper.
Our drafting process for these bills was inspired by the work of the Student Recovery Advisory Council, a cross-functional group of students, teachers, administrators, health experts and community leaders who provided recommendations. on how to tackle challenges ranging from wellness and academics to family engagement and post-secondary transition. Their efforts informed both bills, and you can view their report at Michigan.gov/StudentRecovery.
The first bill invests $ 4.4 billion in federal relief dollars directly into districts that serve students with the highest needs. The second, totaling over $ 17 billion, is the Educational Assistance Fund bill that we pass each year to fund Michigan’s public schools. There is a lot to celebrate in this year’s school budget, but three investments are worth highlighting:
• First: We are closing the funding gap between Michigan schools without raising taxes. Michigan school districts now have the same base funding per student. Closing this gap means each district can hire more top-notch teachers and bring more nurses, social workers and psychologists to its schools. This means updated manuals, improved facilities and new sports equipment. We have been seeking funding parity since the adoption of Proposal A 27 years ago, before the birth of my two daughters. Now we are doing it.
• Second, we are developing the Great Start Readiness Program, one of the best preschool programs in the country. Prior to today, 22,000 Michigan residents who were eligible for free preschool could not be served due to underinvestment in the program. No more. This budget expands the GSRP to cover all eligible four-year-olds. Access to kindergarten helps more parents return to work knowing their children are in a safe school environment.
• Finally, we are including $ 240 million to hire additional psychologists, social workers, counselors and nurses to take care of the physical and mental health of our students. In the conversations I had with the Michiganders during the pandemic, I know how often mental health, especially in our children and youth, is brought up.
There are other essentials in the budget as well: additional dollars for special education and additional resources for mental health and support services.
I’m proud that we were able to come together – Republicans and Democrats – to make this happen for our children. I know we can also come together to make an equally groundbreaking investment in Michigan Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners to ensure that more Michiganders have a tuition-free path to well-paying jobs and that businesses can continue to respond to their talent needs. Going forward, we can make bold progress on priorities we all share, from roads and water infrastructure to skills training and job creation, as long as we stay focused on the Michigan priority.
Michigan’s future is bright. Our efforts to revive our economy are paying off. Our unemployment rate is below the national average, our GDP growth is the highest in the Midwest, our credit rating has been improved, and independent analysis shows our recovery is the second strongest nationally. If we continue to work together, we have the power to help people prosper and to push our economy to new heights. We can build a better future for Michigan by working together today. I can’t wait to do it.
Gretchen Whitmer is the governor of Michigan.