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Michigan education leaders find relief in 2021 budget

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Michigan education leaders were bracing for tough financial decisions next year as the COVID-19 pandemic persists.



a close up of a sign: MLive file photo of Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Tuesday, October 29, 2019.


© Emil Lippe | MLive.com/Emil Lippe | MLive.com/mlive.com/TNS
MLive file photo of Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Tuesday, October 29, 2019.

But school boards and educators are now breathing a sigh of relief, with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer preparing to sign the 2021 budget approved by the legislature last week.

Michigan’s education spending for K-12 schools, community colleges and universities clocks in at about $17.65 billion, with the School Aid Fund budget coming in at roughly $15.5 billion. The School Aid Fund budget increased by about $300 million compared to the 2019-20 budget.

Read more: 7 things you should know about Michigan’s new budget

“Based on what we were hearing months ago, how can we not be anything but pleased?” said Don Wotruba, executive director for the Michigan Association of School Boards. “In a normal year, as health care costs and things go up, would like to see more money? Absolutely, but how can you not be happy that we have a budget that didn’t result in cuts?”

The sentiment was shared by Michael Hansen, president of the Michigan Community College Association, who called the situation “dire” prior to the budget clarification.

The budget contains a modest uptick for K-12 spending, including a one-time $65 per-pupil increase for K-12 schools. Additional money is available for school districts with increasing enrollment based on a blend of pre- and post-pandemic enrollment levels.

These allocations alleviate the financial burden on school districts forced to spend more of their own budget on personal protective equipment to lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission, Wotruba said.

“School districts are experiencing extra cost in certain places, but we hope that the additional funding put in