LANSING (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday signed a $15.8 billion education budget that includes substantially more money for public universities and a preschool program for disadvantaged 4-year-olds, along with a more modest boost in K-12 districts' traditional per-student funding.
Overall state spending on education will rise $663 million, or 4 percent, in the fiscal year starting in October.
"This is an extremely high-quality budget," the Republican governor said during a bill-signing event at the state Capitol. "In terms of K-12 investment from the state of Michigan, it's over a billion dollars higher than 2010, the year before I took office and many of my colleagues in the Legislature. That's a significant increase, and it shows there's a commitment."
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signs a $15.8 billion state education budget for the next fiscal year on Tuesday in the state Capitol building in Lansing. Watching him sign the bill are robotics students he had honored and Republican lawmakers.
Snyder was trying to counter Democrats' election year attack that he cut $1 billion from education in his first year, which disregards federal stimulus money drying up and later supplemental adjustments to both the 2010-11 and 2011-12 K-12 budgets.
Every K-12 district will get at least $50 more a student. The lowest-funded districts will receive $175 more, with the minimum aid rising from $7,076 to $7,251.
Snyder's challenger, Democrat Mark Schauer, said in a statement that the new budget continues a pattern of "wasting millions of our taxpayer dollars on unaccountable, for-profit charter schools that are failing to educate our kids."
"Most Michigan schools will get about 29 cents more per pupil, per school day," he said. "At the current rate of inflation, this means districts will actually get less in next year's budget than they did this year, which will likely result in more teacher layoffs and larger class sizes."
The governor plans to sign the rest of the next state budget - a $37.5 billion general spending bill - within a week once it is proofread and reaches his desk.
K-12 districts will qualify for more money by meeting "best practices" and get up to $100 more per student improve. The funding gap among districts will be $848 per student next year, down from a disparity of $2,300 when the school finance system was revamped 20 years ago.
School-choice advocates said the criticism that charter and online schools will see a bigger funding increase was misleading. Sixty percent of the state's 1.5 million K-12 students, including more than 800,000 in traditional public schools and 140,000 in charter public schools, will benefit from boosting the minimum grant to $7,251, said Gary Naeyaert, executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project.
Under the education budget:
- The state cannot replace the nearly 45-year-old Michigan Educational Assessment Program next school year with exams developed by the Smarter Balanced consortium, a group of states including Michigan that are adopting national Common Core standards that spell out what math and English skills students should have at each grade level. The law directs state officials to develop a new MEAP for next spring and to seek a waiver or amendment to its existing waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law.
"We informed the Legislature earlier this year that we are not able to generate an entire new MEAP assessment in less than a year without jeopardizing our federal waiver, so we will be seeing what can be done to make this work," said Martin Ackley, spokesman for the state Education Department.
- Funding for Michigan's 15 universities will go up 5.9 percent, with the amount varying by school. They can raise tuition by no more than 3.2 percent to get their entire funding increase. Aid will remain below what it was when Snyder took office. He said he hopes to fully restore university funding to 2010-11 levels in 2015-16 or later.
- Funding for 28 community colleges will rise 3 percent.
- There is $65 million more so low-income children no longer have to be on a waiting list for financial help to attend preschool. test scores