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Whitmer K-12 budget centers on Michigan proposals with bipartisan support

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at a school
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appears to be prioritizing education efforts that have bipartisan support as she’s poised to unveil her proposed budget. (State of Michigan)
  • Gov. Whitmer is promoting state investments in tutoring and literacy, priorities shared by many Republicans 
  • She is expected to release more details on her proposed budget on Wednesday 
  • She may face pushback on her tutoring plan from the GOP, which had proposed its own tutoring plan last year

Literacy and tutoring are two things that Republicans and Democrats agree are important. And it’s probably no coincidence that they’re both near the top of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s education agenda.

Emerging details from the school aid budget that Whitmer will present Wednesday show that she is prioritizing areas nearly everyone supports, even if they can’t agree on the details.

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That could help her conserve her political capital for partisan fights later. 

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Republicans are likely to push back hard against some of Whitmer’s non-budgetary priorities, including strengthening gun safety, requiring more financial transparency from charter schools, codifying protections for LGBTQ people, and repealing the state’s right-to-work law.

With those fights on the horizon, Whitmer is being more cautious on the school budget, said Sarah Reckhow, associate professor of political science at Michigan State University.

“The proposals that have been coming out are not likely to raise a lot of push back,” Reckhow said. “They would fall into the bread-and-butter categories. They’re programs that are pretty popular, things for kids that Democrats usually support and Republicans probably support, too.”

Still, Whitmer could face opposition, particularly over her tutoring program. Republicans and conservative education advocates are still angry about her 2021 veto of a GOP bill to provide state-funded scholarships for private tutoring.

State Board of Education President Pamela Pugh, a Democrat, said that she hasn’t yet seen the governor’s budget but that she supports proposals to offer universal preschool, provide one-on-one tutoring, and prepare parents to help children learn to read. 

“We need to make sure the necessary budget is there for there to be healthy school learning environments,” she said.

Pugh said she would also like to see teacher retention bonuses like the ones Whitmer proposed last year, but Whitmer’s office said they won’t part of this year’s budget.

Pugh said she hopes Whitmer’s budget will at least provide enough money for districts to provide their own teacher bonuses if they choose to, as some already do.

“They should be strongly encouraged” to provide bonuses to educators, she said.

The state board has no budgetary authority but can make spending recommendations.

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Whitmer’s school funding priorities include the following, according to budget details shared with Chalkbeat Detroit, Bridge Michigan, the Detroit Free Press, and MLive:

The full school aid and general fund budgets are scheduled to be released at 11 a.m. Wednesday before the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. The budgets are expected to be posted online at about the same time. 

Tracie Mauriello covers state education policy for Chalkbeat Detroit and Bridge Michigan. Reach her at tmauriello@chalkbeat.org.

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