LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — With school districts just a couple of weeks away from their new fiscal year, there is uncertainty about how much money they will have to spend.
That’s because at the state-level budgets aren’t done. It’s a point of contention between the governor’s office and the Legislature.
Crowds of teachers dressed in red gathered on the lawn of the state capitol Tuesday to demand more funding for schools. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was there and made it clear she also wants the Legislature to take action — and not just for schools.
“Our outcomes and our challenges are because of a failure in this building behind me, not because of our children, not because of our educators,” she said.
Whitmer, a Democrat, received cheers and applause from educators when she blamed the Republican-led Legislature for failing to adequately fund education over a long period of time.
She has proposed $500 million more for education, but legislative proposals are short of that.
“In two weeks, districts across this state will start their new fiscal year. In two weeks, probably very little is going to happen in this building,” the governor said, referring to the fact that while the House and Senate have passed budgets, negotiations have only begun and the Legislature is likely going into summer recess at the end of next week.
“I think we’re doing everyone a disservice by not staying here and getting the work done until we can tell schools what to plan on for the fall,” she said.
In session or not, legislative leaders and the administration will continue to work out a spending plan. The biggest sticking point is roads, not education. Whitmer wants both funded at the levels she proposed.
“We can chew gum and walk at the same time. Businesses and families alike are telling us that we’ve got to close the skills gap and rebuild the infrastructure. We can’t steal from one to do the other. We must do both,” she said.
It’s possible a surprise bargain could be reached like the one that emerged on no-fault automotive insurance reform, but seems more likely it could be a long summer of negotiations.