LANSING, Mich. — Without raising taxes, lawmakers in Lansing came to an agreement on the upcoming years budget that prioritized education first and foremost. Per student spending was increased by $450 a pupal - an increase of $1,375,061 compared to the year before.
Education funding means more than just students. Districts around the state are struggling to retain and recruit teachers in the wake of the pandemic, and this newly passed budget is hoping to amend that struggle.
There aren't specific line items to increase salaries or benefits to teachers already in classrooms, but the support for new teachers is huge. The budget allocated $175 million for Grow-Your-Own grants to districts providing a no-cost pathway for support staff members or ling term subs to become certified teachers.
"We see an awful lot of turnover within teaching," said Paula Lancaster, Dean of Central Michigan University's College of Education. "Focusing on Grow-Your-Own and people who already live in the community and are committed to the community should help kind of tamp that down a bit also."
In addition, student teachers are also going to see more support. A $50 million stipend for student teachers could bring needed support to practical learning. $305 million is allocated for scholarships to college students earning their initial teacher certification. Neatly $25 million of that money will be given out in the upcoming fiscal year, while the rest will be put away in a reserve fund for Future Educator Fellowship grants.
Add that all together, and administrators are hopeful the teacher shortage will be tackled through an invigorated supply of new graduates and teachers joining the workforce.
"Across the state there’s not as big a pool of candidates as there used to be," said Chris LaHaie, Thornapple Kellogg (TK) assistant superintendent. TK is not experiencing a teacher shortage, but LaHaie says they haven't seen its effects. "Where we do have postings you do see fewer applicants and districts are playing against each other to get the best."
Also in the new state budget is an increase to mental health resources, special education funding, school safety and more. It's an investment administrators hope will encourage teachers to stay in the profession as they can do more without having to cut spending.
"I think these budgets we’ve seen the past several are allowing districts to get back to a place where we can compensate and attract teachers and retain them," LaHaie said. "And say you are appreciated and you are important and you’re shaping tomorrow."
"The school safety support. The mental health support. The realization that we need to recruit and support people interested in entering the profession." said Newaygo Superintendent Jeff Wright. "I’m glad the legislators and Governor recognize that they needed to shore up funding for local district. "Of course we can use more, and it would be helpful if we could plan for subsequent years, especially as we might implement new programs."
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