LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Thomas Albert on Wednesday introduced a comprehensive education budget proposal that is better for kids than the alternatives proposed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Democrats in the Michigan Legislature.
Albert, R-Lowell, focuses on school safety, catching up on lost learning, addressing the teacher shortage, paying down debt and other issues to help students and schools succeed.
Albert voted against initial education budget subcommittee recommendations advanced by Democrats this week, saying that while there is some common ground, there is also room for significant improvement.
“There are areas of agreement and opportunities to work together as the final budget takes shape,” said Albert, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee including subcommittees on higher education and preK-12 education. “We must continue our track record of increased investment in students and schools with proposals that are realistic and workable. Let’s focus on solving problems with sustainable solutions that will have better outcomes for kids.”
The plan introduced in Senate Bills 304-307 includes:
- A K-12 per-pupil foundation allowance of $9,608, up 5% from the current year — matching the governor’s proposal and slightly less than the proposal recommended by Senate Democrats.
- Special education funding at 100% per student, matching the Senate Democratic subcommittee recommendation and ahead of Whitmer’s proposal to fund special education at 87.5% in the next fiscal year. “I am encouraged that the Senate subcommittee proposal recognizes special education has been massively underfunded — and continues to do something about it,” Albert said.
- More school safety funding — $286 million total for K-12 school safety grants, $150 million for universities and $50 million for community colleges. Funding for school resource officers at the K-12 level would be doubled — compared to plans from the governor and the Senate subcommittee that remove state funding targeted only for school resource officers.
- An additional $150 million for school-based mental health initiatives.
- A $100 million investment in the “Grow Your Own” program that helps non-certified K-12 personnel become certified teachers, helping address a worsening shortage. This is a proven solution embraced by local schools and the Michigan Department of Education.
- A $300 million commitment to help students receive more personalized instruction time and catch up on learning lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. This could include flexible tutoring, after-school and summer school initiatives.
- A further expansion of the Great Start Readiness Program by raising investments to $14,000 per child — helping providers hire staff and add capacity. Albert said Democratic plans for so-called “universal preschool” are unrealistic and do not have a workable plan to support it.
- A fairer funding plan for higher education — including a 2% operations increase for universities and a 4% increase for community colleges. Higher education institutions also would benefit from continued state assistance to pay off debt, which frees up additional resources for operations. Albert’s plan also continues efforts to help close the funding gap between universities, helping those that have been historically underfunded compared to their counterparts.
- Proposals to help make education more affordable, including $620 million to reduce reliance on local community college districts — allowing community colleges to have one tuition rate for students regardless of where they live. This plan could potentially offer some property tax relief in some districts.
Albert’s plan builds on his track record of reducing school employee retirement system debt and keeping significant financial resources in reserve to help ensure a brighter financial future.
“This plan is sustainable and leaves more than $2 billion unallocated on the balance sheet in case a recession hurts revenues,” Albert said. “We must not adopt a budget that might require cuts if the economy worsens.”
Senate Bills 304-307 are expected to be read into the Senate’s official record on Thursday.