LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer held a news conference today to update Michiganders on budget negotiations.
Since Whitmer introduced her proposed budget six months ago, she has traveled all over the state to talk to Michiganders about her plans to fix the damn roads and improve public education.
Michigan's public schools have been operating for 58 days without knowing what their budget will be, the governor's office said. The state fiscal year ends in 33 days on Sept. 30, 2019.
On Wednesday in Lansing, Whitmer said she is waiting to hear a viable alternative to her proposed state road budget from Republican lawmakers.
"I am not going to negotiate with myself," she said.
"I'm working day and night to get a deal that will make bold, meaningful investments in our schools and infrastructure. The problems we're facing are decades in the making, and they're a result of leaders in Lansing kicking the can down the road and using School Aid Fund dollars to fill gaps in the budget. That changes this year. I'm not going to sign a budget that doesn't include a real fix. It's time for Republicans to stop playing games, come to the table, and negotiate a real solution."
- Watch her news conference above.
Michigan superintendents sounded the alarm Tuesday over starting school without knowing how much state funding their districts will receive, saying it affects staffing and other decisions.
No state K-12 budget is in place because Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Republican-led Legislature remain at odds over her proposed 45-cents-a-gallon, $2.5 billion fuel tax hike to fix the roads and free up more money for education. This is the first time in a decade that school leaders have not known their state aid by July, the beginning of schools' fiscal year.
"We've been thrown into a state of uncertainty in trying to plan for the new year," said Dan Behm, superintendent of Forest Hills Public Schools in suburban Grand Rapids. "Where we have staffing issues, we're in a state of limbo."
Behm and other superintendents spoke a day after Whitmer wrote a letter to education leaders and union members saying they "deserve better" and again criticizing lawmakers for adjourning for much of the summer without a budget deal before the Oct. 1 deadline. The House returned to session Tuesday, while the Senate began meeting again last week.
Though most schools will reopen next week, many others began classes this week after receiving waivers from the post-Labor Day start law.
The superintendents said operating with what is effectively flat funding — for now — is harmful, especially if more students than expected show up on day one.
Ken Gutman, superintendent of Walled Lake Consolidated Schools in suburban Detroit, said he may delay hiring more teachers, social workers and school psychologists "not knowing if we're going to have money to keep them."
Whitmer's proposal would pump $526 million, or 3.5%, more into the K-12 budget, which would be the largest increase in classroom spending in 18 years when retirement costs are not counted. Funding would rise between $203 million and $395 million under House and Senate proposals, or 1.4% and 2.7%. The most recent annual U.S. inflation rate was 1.8%.