The most notable winners in Michigan’s $21.5 billion budget for K-12 schools will be the state’s neediest students, English language learners, children in high-poverty schools, and special education students.
But with smaller amounts, the budget also delivers money to benefit teachers, Detroit schools and other local districts, campus infrastructure, community-based advocacy efforts, regional education nonprofits, and rural districts. Those less-noticed budget items could have a significant impact on education across the state.
Here’s a closer look at the smaller-ticket budget items that are expected to have huge payoffs.
While a shortage of teaching applicants is a national issue, Greg Nyen, superintendent of the Marquette-Alger Regional Educational Services Agency in the Upper Peninsula, said the scarcity of educators is acute in Michigan.
“About 10 years ago, 23,000 teachers or potential teachers were in educational preparatory programs across the state,” he said. “Last year, there were under 15,000. Only about 20% end up completing their certification.”
As part of an effort to address the shortage, a number of districts will receive a total of $76.4 million to support Talent Together, a partnership among 48 school systems and nine universities that widens pathways for aspiring teachers.
“So often, when new teachers start, they don’t feel successful,” said Jack Elsey, founder of the nonprofit Michigan Educator Workforce Initiative. “Over half quit in the first year.”
The new collaborative aims to tackle barriers for prospective teachers, Elsey said, including paying for their training, offering paid apprenticeships in the classroom, and mentoring them while they are in those programs.
Districts will also be granted a total of $50 million to expand support for new teachers, school counselors, and administrators, including mentor stipends and professional development.
And the budget allocates $63.8 million to districts to increase pay for educators.
“Elevating salaries and making this career an attractive one once again makes the financial burden lighter and makes it feel like it’s worth the effort,” said Elsey.
Financial awards for teachers who have national board certification will be funded with $4 million. Eligible teachers in districts that apply for the funds will receive $4,000 and an additional $6,000 if they work in Title I schools, which have large concentrations of students from low-income households.
Paula Herbart, president of the Michigan Education Association teachers union, called the funding a proactive step in recruiting and retaining quality educators.
“It’s critical that we keep great educators on the job and attract talented people into this noble profession, and this budget agreement provides our schools with much-needed resources to help accomplish these goals,” she said in a statement.