Advance Notice: Briefs

Metro Detroit leaders say Whitmer’s education budget makes the grade

By: - March 5, 2019 5:34 pm

C.J. Moore

Updated at 12:40 p.m. with comments from the Detroit Federation of Teachers.

Southeast Michigan leaders praised Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on the $15.4 billion School Aid Fund portion of her budget presentation, which she formally presented on Tuesday.  

Mayor Mike Duggan at FCA announcement, Feb. 26, 2019 | Ken Coleman

The School Aid Fund is used to support K-12 public schools. Whitmer’s fiscal year 2020 budget will increase education spending by $507 million, with weighted funding for different types of students. Her plan, which will be considered by the state Legislature, calls for a $180 boost in the minimum per-student grant.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said Whitmer is “on the right track.

“I completely support the direction that she’s doing,” said Duggan on Monday during the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights training site development announcement. “We’ve been disinvesting in the schools in this state far too long. It’s not Detroit. Statewide, you’ve seen student achieve decline badly over the last eight years and I think that governor is on the right track.”  

At her budget presentation on Tuesday, Whitmer revisited a debate over the School Aid Fund (SAF) being used for priorities outside K-12 education. In the current fiscal year 2019 budget, $908.3 million has been diverted from the SAF, according to the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s first budget presentation

That supports the entire Community Colleges budget and represents one-third of state funds in the Higher Education budget for the state’s 15 public universities. Currently, 7 percent of the School Aid Fund goes to higher education institutions.

“The School Aid Fund has been robbed,” Whitmer said in her speech before legislative Appropriations committees.

Dr. Nikolai Vitti, Detroit Public Schools Community District general superintendent, tweeted on Monday, “I am encouraged by the governor’s first budget. She was certainly limited with options from lame duck shenanigans but one’s budget always reflects one’s values and this demonstrates a real commitment to public education and all children.”

The Advance reported last December that Vitti accused the Republican-led Legislature of treating Michigan public school districts like “third-class citizens” because several bills were passed without what he called the lack of input from school administrators and education unions. His district, the state’s largest, has a student enrollment of about 50,000 students.

Nikolai Vitti

Mark Greathead, Tri-County Alliance for Public Education vice president and superintendent of Woodhaven-Brownstown Schools said he’s “excited as an educator because I know the game-changing impact this budget would have in classrooms across Michigan, but I’m even more excited for our students to see leadership in Lansing that is putting their success first and foremost. They deserve nothing less.”

Russell Pickell, superintendent of Riverview Schools, agreed, saying the budget was a “historic opportunity.

“Gov. Whitmer’s budget not only embraces those challenges, but puts real solutions on paper to overcome them,” he said. “This budget is nothing short of a historic opportunity to reinvest in our schools and our students.”

The Advance also reported on Monday that leading education unions, the American Federation of Teachers Michigan and Michigan Education Association, also praised Whitmer’s K-12 schools budget.

Terrence Martin, Detroit Federation of Teachers president, also spoke highly of Whitmer’s K-12 schools budget. Martin’s union is comprised of about 3,000 members, including teachers, counselors and other education professionals.

“We appreciate the effort that the governor is making,” Martin said. “It addresses some of the issues with special education and underserved communities of students. We are hopeful that these dollars get to students and the classroom in a meaningful way. While this is an increase, from what we’ve had in recent years, we also recognize that they have a ways to go.”

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman writes about Southeast Michigan, history and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on Black life in Detroit.