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Opinion | The clock is ticking: schools need Lansing to pass budget by June 1

Michigan’s superintendents are working around the clock to prioritize health and safety while providing the best possible experience to support students’ social, emotional and academic wellbeing. Meanwhile, we know parents and families need all the support they can get from their schools.

Mark Greathead
Mark Greathead is superintendent of Woodhaven-Brownstown Schools and president of the K-12 Alliance of Michigan. (Courtesy photo)

Unfortunately, COVID-19 numbers are once again on the rise, and while we remain focused on helping students recover, our hands will be tied without needed support from Lansing.

As an educator, I am deeply grateful for the support schools have received through federal stimulus dollars. Schools need every penny of that federal funding in order to keep their doors open and children in classrooms, and, while that level of funding will differ – often significantly – from district to district, each and every school is ready to put that money to use to best support our students now and throughout their recovery process.

The reality educators are facing, however, is that many of the decisions that will most directly aid in our students’ recovery – such as hiring the teachers, tutors, social workers and other support staff that will work directly with our students – cannot be made with one-time federal funding nor can they be implemented overnight.

These positions require the stable, ongoing funding that can only come from our state’s annual school aid budgeting process. As our schools’ fiscal year starts on July 1, it’s critical for lawmakers in Lansing to pass a 2021-22 budget for schools by June 1 so that our districts can get to work ensuring they have everything in place to aid every facet of students’ recovery process.

Districts are already well into the process of planning for summer programming and for the new school year in the fall, and we know parents need robust programming and support from their children’s schools. We have the plans in place and know what this process will take. What we lack, at this point, is the budget certainty to implement them.

On behalf of teachers, staff, students and families across Michigan, I’m asking Lansing to get this job done because the consequences otherwise mean our students are only going to fall further behind. It’s going to take our schools years to mitigate the many challenges brought on by the pandemic and districts need funding commitments form Lansing now so we can adequately begin planning for the 2021-22 school year and beyond.

We are already well into April and there’s a lot of work ahead. Lansing has billions of dollars in federal relief funding that still must be appropriated throughout the state and a budget process that has barely even begun, even while educators throughout Michigan are making plans for the upcoming school year and beyond.

I’m hopeful that our lawmakers in Lansing can work together – even if just on this one issue – to do what is right for our students by allocating the remainder of the federal funding and getting a school aid budget done by June 1. The alternative – letting students fall further behind – is an option our state simply can’t afford.

The last year has been hard enough as it is. We owe it to our students, teachers and staff to do everything we can to set them on a path to success in the years to come.

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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