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Opinion | Bipartisan school budget is a win for Michigan students, parents

As a mom — like any parent — I want my kids to have the best education possible so they can pursue their potential. As governor, it is my job to ensure that every kid in Michigan has a birthright to a high-quality public education. A few weeks ago, I was proud to sign a bipartisan education budget that makes me proud not only as governor, but also as a mom.

Gretchen Whitmer
Gretchen Whitmer is current governor of Michigan. (State of Michigan)

The bipartisan education budget includes the highest state per-pupil funding ever, more resources for preschool, on-campus mental health, school safety, special education, before- and after-school programming, teacher recruitment scholarships, and a quarter of a billion dollars for school infrastructure. 

Every kid deserves to feel safe and supported in school, and I am proud that we have come together to deliver a budget that gives every kid an opportunity to succeed.   

There is a lot in the budget to highlight, but I want to highlight what the bipartisan education budget means for your child, their classroom, and your neighborhood school.

The highest state per-pupil funding ever means an investment directly into the classroom to improve every kid’s in-person learning experience, helping schools buy new textbooks, offer more personalized instruction, and expand AP and honors classes. 

In addition to improving in-person learning, the budget bolsters mental health. Every parent knows how important mental health is for our children’s overall wellbeing and learning. Today, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of school-age kids report frequent feelings of hopelessness, depression or anxiety, yet most lack access to adequate care. That is why we have allocated funds in the bipartisan budget empowering schools to help hire more on-campus mental health professionals, establish school-based mental health centers, and institute effective behavioral and mental health programs. Our budget positions Michigan as a national leader in developing systemic solutions to address this growing public health emergency.  

Next, our educators. Every parent knows that the person in front of their kid’s class is critical to their learning and development. The past couple of years have been tough on our dedicated, hardworking teachers and education professionals. Most are working longer hours, responding to unfinished learning, and working with students facing increased trauma and mental health challenges. 

The historic challenges we have faced have had an impact on teacher recruitment. To shore up Michigan’s teacher pipeline, our bipartisan education budget offers $10,000 in tuition to recruit 2,500 future Michigan educators every year, delivering $9,600 stipends per semester for student teachers to retain them full-time after certification, and funding “grow your own” programs to help school staff earn their teaching degree while working — tuition-free. This budget puts over 10,000 people on an affordable path to working in the classroom.

Finally, our schools. For students to succeed, they need to feel safe and comfortable in school and have access to facilities conducive to their learning. No parent wants to send their kid to a school with inadequate heating and cooling, leaky roofs, or facilities in disrepair. That is why our bipartisan education budget makes a $250 million investment — a quarter of a billion dollars — in school infrastructure to help build or refurbish classrooms and common areas. Districts can use these resources to add air conditioning, upgrade dated facilities, and build spaces for kids to learn.

There is so much more in this bipartisan education budget to celebrate. A record investment in higher education, scholarships to help more Michiganders get a degree tuition-free, a 27 percent increase in funding for career and technical education to put students on path to good-paying jobs, veteran education programs so those who served have a chance to learn, investments in our youngest Michiganders, and so much more.

As governor, a Michigander, and a mom, I am proud that we came together to enact a historic, bipartisan education budget. Getting this done was the result of collaboration between legislators, policy experts, and of course, parents. Parent input is essential to building an effective education budget because parents are their children’s first teachers and know what is best for their kids. Soon, I will establish the Michigan Parent’s Council to create a space for more parent voices to inform my education agenda and next budget proposal.

The bipartisan education budget will make a real difference in our children’s lives. I am looking forward to next school year, and I hope you are too.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Ron French. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

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