HomeTop StoriesGov. Whitmer is facing opposition from teachers over the allocation of funds

Gov. Whitmer is facing opposition from teachers over the allocation of funds

MONROE – Education groups across the state have banded together to change school funding. On May 16, 2024, a group of thirteen organizations, including the Michigan Education Association, AFT-MI, Michigan Alliance for Student Opportunity, Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators, and many more, jointly sent a letter to members of the Legislature of Michigan demanding proper distribution of recently available school funding.

The background to this letter goes back to 2011, when, due to financial decisions made by previous lawmakers, a fund component of the Michigan Public School Employees’ Retirement System remained under budget. The solution was for the government, school districts and teachers to put additional money into filling this gap. Districts paid 13.9% of the annual cost, teachers had to pay 3% for every dollar they earned, and the government added another 7% to what they were already paying.

The fund was expected to be fully restored by 2032, but Gov Whitmer announced that the fund would be 120% funded by 2024. However, she also said the government would stop paying their additional share, without mentioning a reduction in the amount paid by districts and teachers. In addition, Governor Whitmer is trying to put excess money from the fund (about $600 million according to State Rep. William Bruck) into the general fund to be used for other government projects.

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Whitmer's intentions to take surplus funds and reallocate them are opposed by educators and politicians.

Whitmer’s intentions to take surplus funds and reallocate them are opposed by educators and politicians.

The United Education Groups oppose this and explicitly state in their letter that they are in favor of “retaining all section 147 allocations in the upcoming budget for the 2024-2025 financial year, with the school contribution limit permanently reduced to fully fund to reflect the MPSERS OPEB Trust Fund and commit to further reducing this rate in the future.” They also called on the state to permanently reduce the amount districts pay and completely end the requirement for teachers to pay 3% of the dollar of retirees’ health care debt as it has been resolved.

According to Carl Shultz, superintendent of Bedford Public Schools, allowing districts and teachers to keep this money would greatly benefit districts’ ability to improve education and care for their employees. The joint letter said the additional money would boost district funds up to $500 per student.

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“It’s an impossible situation when you’re trying to hire quality people and you can’t afford to pay them a living wage,” he said.

The funding allocations that Governor Whitmer wants to make have met opposition in Lansing, even among her own party members.

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“I think an important point is that the $600 million transfer is not very popular as more money comes out,” Bruck said.

This example is notable because it marks the first time in recent history that these public education organizations have come together to support a single agenda.

“As we look at this and examine what the facts are, we clearly believe this is something important enough that we should work together hand in hand,” MEA Chief of Staff Blake Mazurek said.

— Contact reporter Connor Veenstra at CVeenstra@gannett.com

This article originally appeared in The Monroe News: Educators unite for school funding

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