Michigan GOP threatens to withhold billions in school funding over COVID precautions

MDHHS ordered ban on in-person learning in November, ban was lifted in December

Michigan Legislature threatens to withhold billions in school funding over COVID safety measures
Michigan Legislature threatens to withhold billions in school funding over COVID safety measures

LANSING, Mich. – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to pitch a multibillion-dollar pandemic relief plan during Wednesday’s State of State speech that would prioritize coronavirus vaccinations and additional aid to schools and businesses amid the crisis.

The Legislature has unveiled it’s plan to combat COVID and one of the key points ties $2.1 billion in school funding to a law that would allow local health departments, not the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), to make the call on whether school can resume in-person and whether high school sports can be played.

The proposal came a week after Whitmer sent the Republican-controlled Legislature a $5.6 billion relief plan that would use recently enacted federal aid and state funds.

Whitmer said recent events -- such as the highly contagious B.1.1.7 strain closing down Michigan Athletics and putting athletes, coaches team-staff into quarantine -- should be considered.

“I understand the concern that parents and athletes have and their desire to reengage,” Whitmer said Monday. “We’ve got to not let our guard down. It’s important that we stay very focused on where the numbers are before we take additional steps.”

By law, K-12 districts and charter schools decide whether to allow in-person classes. Whitmer has strongly urged schools to offer a face-to-face learning option by March 1, House Republicans want to entice public schools by offering up to $250 per student in funding if they commit to reopening by Feb. 15, two weeks earlier.

New CDC guidelines came out Tuesday that suggest in-person learning should resume as soon as possible if they and their surrounding communities adopt prevention measures. The precautions include mandatory mask wearing, limited indoor dining, social distancing; and indoor and contact sports not being permitted.

Read: Tracking coronavirus cases, outbreaks in Michigan schools

More: Return to School

About the Authors:

Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.