March 19 – TRAVERSE CITY – Michigan lawmakers are here.
The $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill enacted on March 11 by President Joe Biden includes a provision that will require states to allocate included federal school aid within 60 days. Michigan is expected to receive $ 3.8 billion in educational aid.
U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) added the requirement to the bill after Republicans at Michigan House withheld nearly $ 2 billion in federal state education aid from the latest plan stimulus signed in December. The tactic drew criticism from educators and education advocates who called the actions “incomprehensible” and “inadmissible”.
Robert McCann, executive director of the K-12 Alliance of Michigan, told the senator how the money has been “inappropriately spent in political battles that have nothing to do with schools or the needs of our students.” .
“They’re going to get that money out this time around,” McCann said. “That’s not to say we’re not going to have these same battles, but at least there is an end date.”
John Roth, Republican Representative for Michigan’s 104th District, previously said withholding school aid was the only leverage the legislature had against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Roth said last week he was not yet aware of the 60-day provision and was disappointed with its inclusion.
“The government is not working as fast as we would like,” he said. “Committee processes and proper meetings, they take a while. We’re going to have to work hard to get there – and we will. I just wish we had more time.”
Whitmer allocated $ 839 million from the previous stimulus package last week, but she vetoed the remaining $ 841 million Republicans made conditional on her relinquishing some executive powers to local health departments to make decisions on school closings and sporting events. Whitmer also vetoed an additional $ 97 million in federal funds for schools until a deal is reached.
Traverse City area public school superintendent John VanWagoner said he hopes lawmakers and the governor can reach a resolution “for the sake of our children and our communities.”
“We’re running out of time to make concrete plans for the summer and what we can do with some of these funds,” VanWagoner said. “Time is really running out.”
$ 3.8 billion for Michigan schools will help tackle learning loss, provide technology, improve ventilation infrastructure, offer summer schools and tutoring, hire staff and to provide personal protective equipment during the pandemic. VanWagoner said TCAPS has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on PPE and other measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within school walls.
School districts are now moving from the crisis management phase of the pandemic to the recovery phase. Suttons Bay Public Schools Superintendent Casey Petz said “significant dollars” must be spent on solving problems beyond the current school year.
“From the outside looking inward you will say it’s a lot of money. But from the inside looking out, school districts will tell you that we are going to need every penny of everything. that – and more, ”Petz said.
Petz is concerned about the mental well-being of his students and how adults will help them recover from the continuing trauma of the pandemic. Putting academics aside, Petz said serious work needs to be done to meet the needs of students and families.
“These funds are absolutely necessary for this,” he said.
However, not all schools will receive a fair amount of funding. The distribution will follow the federal Title I formula and provide more money to school districts with higher poverty rates, just as it did in the previous two stimulus packages.
While well-meaning, McCann said the guidelines don’t apply well to meeting the needs of every district during a global pandemic. State lawmakers are working to increase the minimum guaranteed amount for each school district by overlaying state aid on federal dollars. But this will only apply to the second pot of relief funds.
McCann said he appreciates those involved recognizing the need for fairness, but added that the $ 3.8 billion would go through the same formula that “will ultimately help some school districts more than others.”