Superintendents praise proposed increase in education budget | News

TRAVERSE CITY – Northern Michigan school overseers hope the state’s dollars will remain to be used to recruit and retain teachers as the state’s proposed education budget goes to negotiations.

Earlier in February, Gov. Gitten Whitmer presented her proposal for a $ 74.1 billion Michigan budget, including a $ 18.4 billion education plan for the 2022-23 school year. The proposal, which represents an increase in the state budget for education for the second year in a row, recommends increasing funding for each student by 5 percent and investing in mental health services, teacher recruitment and teacher retention.

For some leaders in the region, the emphasis on hiring and retaining teachers is most important, especially on scholarships for student teachers.

Whitmer’s proposal proposes to allocate $ 1.6 billion to teacher retention programs that include bonuses that increase over the next four years, and $ 600 million to teacher recruitment programs, including scholarships and scholarships for student teachers.

“For me, the main thing is that we came up with a plan that has significant resources that can make a difference … because it reaches a crisis level for all schools in Michigan and the country,” said Traverse City Public School Superintendent John Van Wagon. .

Northern Michigan schools faced a shortage of staff and substitutes, who sometimes closed classes for several days and forced some school districts to hire uncertified entrants. The shortage is partly due to a decrease in the number of college students enrolling in educational programs and certification programs to become future teachers.

As the pandemic worsened, leaders in the region stressed that the recruitment and retention of teachers was a problem long before the pandemic.

“It’s gratifying that it’s not just for school officials that it’s become more apparent that this is a problem,” said Stephanie Long, head of Leland Public School.

Long said she was “delighted” with Whitmer’s budget proposal. For Leland, one of the most important parts of the cost plan is that it will allow the school district to support some important programs and staffing that have been done through COVID assistance, she said.

Another part of Whitmer’s plan is to increase funding per student from $ 8,700 to $ 9,135.

In Elk Rapids, increasing funding per student will mean maintaining and strengthening district STEM programs, said Elk Rapids school superintendent Julie Brown.

Jessica Harrand, head of Buckley’s community schools, said increasing funding per student would allow her school district to offer more competitive salaries and retain quality teachers instead of replicating them to other school districts in the district that can offer better pay.

In addition to the points in Whitmer’s budget proposal, Harrand said she would like the state government to take on more of the burden of paying teachers’ pensions. The increase in funding for mental health services in Whitmer’s budget proposal also affected Harrand, but she said she would like to see fewer restrictions on the qualifications required of applicants for these positions in mental health services.

“These employees just don’t exist in Michigan right now … if they could be a little broader in who can take those positions, those dollars would be more affordable,” Harrand said.

VanWagon said he would also like to see differences in transportation services, which are considered as one of the positions when it comes to funding per student. Now the funding that schools receive for transportation is the same, despite the fact that some school districts take up more vehicles than others.

In Kalka, superintendent Rick Heitmeier said increased funding would allow his county to maintain the pay raise that was implemented this school year for some Kalka teachers and staff. He said he was, above all, happy with the proposed another budget increase.

“You won’t make me complain at all,” Heitmeier said. “As long as we work harder and do good things in the classroom and for the kids, we will be happy.”


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