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Literacy, mental health, and at-risk funding: What will lawmakers prioritize in the state school budget?

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Literacy, mental health, and at-risk funding: What will lawmakers prioritize in the state school budget?


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Michigan lawmakers are poised to approve a state education budget that would build on last year’s historic investment in the state’s most vulnerable students, while also increasing funding to improve student mental health, education for English language learners, and literacy.

But some students, parents, educators, and advocates are worried that the state won’t be able to fully fund “dire” needs at a time when Michigan faces several budgetary challenges.

Roughly $5.6 billion in federal COVID relief funds will expire this year, and state revenue growth is expected to slow in coming years. Declining enrollment also has created funding shortfalls in some districts.

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Some fear districts will face painful cuts.

“The state of education right now is – truly, we’re desperate,” said Kathi Martin, a speech language pathologist and union president in Dearborn Public Schools.

“The amount of resources we have never seems to be enough,” she added.

Last week, the House passed a proposed budget that would increase school funding by $900 million compared to last year’s. That’s just slightly higher than what Whitmer proposed in her executive budget.

The Senate appropriations committee has also proposed an increase in school aid, of $1.1 billion. The Senate has not yet voted on the committee’s recommended budget, however, and is expected to take a vote in the coming days.

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The legislature has a deadline of July 1 to pass a state budget. When both houses pass a budget, it will go to the governor to sign. It will take effect Oct. 1.

Last year, lawmakers passed a $21.5 billion school budget that included historic increases to benefit the state’s neediest students. But advocates say legislators must keep up the momentum to continue to work toward more equitably funding Michigan schools.

Here’s what lawmakers have proposed:

Increases to the “opportunity index”

For years, Michigan has been ranked among the worst states in the nation for the inequities in funding between schools in wealthy and poor communities.

Last year, the budget gave an additional $1 billion in funding to districts to serve at-risk students through the “opportunity index,” which provides money to districts serving communities with higher concentrations of poverty.

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“Michigan must continue to take bold steps for an equitable education for its students,” said Elnora Gavin, a Benton Harbor School Board member, in a statement.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • The Senate committee’s proposal includes a $122.6 million increase to at-risk funds. It would allow districts to use up to 60% of the money to recruit and retain instructional staff as well as staff who help improve students’ social, emotional, or physical health.
  • The House proposes a $70.1 million increase. That proposal also includes language that would allow the Detroit Public Schools Community District to use up to 40% of the money to hire more instructional staff or increase teacher salaries.
  • The executive proposal would increase at-risk funding by $23.8 million. It would allow some districts to use up to 30% of the money for teacher recruitment and retention.

Advocates have asked lawmakers to increase the opportunity index funds by 20% over the next five years until it eventually equates to around $2.9 billion in additional funding for at-risk students each year.

What legislators are currently recommending for 2024-25 ranges from a 2.5% to around 12.8% increase over last year’s at-risk funding.

More money for mental health

Since 2021, Michigan has invested more than $715 million in student mental health programs and hiring more school counselors. However, advocates and educators say more school counselors, psychologists, and social workers are needed to adequately address students’ needs during an ongoing youth mental health crisis. The state had the third highest ratio of counselors to students in the country, according to the most recently available data.

“A lot of students’ grades are low because they are facing mental health problems and are not being heard by our teachers,” said Christina Yarn, a 17-year-old attending Saginaw Community Schools’ Heritage High School.

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The governor’s office and the House both propose $300 million in per-pupil funding – $3.3 million more than last year– to improve student mental health and school safety, which is in line with what advocates have asked for. Both proposals have restrictions on the funds to be used for school resource officers. The Senate committee proposes a lower amount, $150 million for the funds, with no restrictions on districts for paying school police.

Small increase for English language learners

The state increased funding for English language learners last year, but still ranked among the worst in the nation for its funding of such programs compared to other states in 2023, according to Ed Trust Midwest.

“We have many immigrant and migrant students attending our schools,” said Martin. “Lots of children come to school and they don’t know English. In order to adequately teach these children, we need more resources than just one teacher in a room with 27 kids.”

The Senate committee’s proposal would double funding for English learners with an increase of $39.7 million.The governor and the House propose much smaller increases – $3 million and $5 million respectively.

One-time funds for literacy

Michigan has long struggled with student literacy rates. It ranks 43rd in the country for fourth grade reading. While more money was allocated to literacy efforts such as reading coaches and early literacy training for teachers last year, some administrators say they are unable to fill open positions.

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The governor proposed $155 million in one-time funding to create a Committee for Literacy Development; offer a ranked list of curricula and professional development for teachers; and fund early literacy teacher coaching positions. The House and the Senate committee’s proposals include similar budget items.

Cuts to the teacher retirement fund

In order to pay for proposed increases to big items on the proposed budgets, legislators are considering making cuts to contributions to the state’s retirement funds for public school employees.

The governor wants to fund $758.9 million less than the $2.5 billion the state put into the Michigan Public School Employees’ Retirement System in 2023-24. The House proposes reducing payments to the funds by $562.4 million. The Senate committee recommends $41.3 million in cuts.

Republican lawmakers have voiced concerns that these cuts would add to an existing pension debt in the system.

Democrats, including Whitmer, say that health care is fully funded under the plan and that it is feasible for the state to scale back its investments in helping districts make payments into the plan.

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Hannah Dellinger covers K-12 education and state education policy for Chalkbeat Detroit. You can reach her at hdellinger@chalkbeat.org.



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Michigan

Experts say Michigan law 'has the back' of election workers and voters – WDET 101.9 FM

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Experts say Michigan law 'has the back' of election workers and voters – WDET 101.9 FM


Experts say election workers and even voters face an almost unprecedented amount of tactics designed to intimidate them.

A recent poll from Bloomberg/Morning Consult found that roughly 50% of registered voters across a group of swing-states — including Michigan — aren’t confident the election and its aftermath will be free from violence.

But a new analysis finds both federal and Michigan law offer ample protections against bullying at the polls.

The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law studied voters’ rights in political battleground states including Michigan.

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Senior Counsel Eliza Sweren-Becker says anyone encountering trouble at the ballot box has many options available to defend themselves.

Listen: Experts say Michigan law ‘has the back’ of election workers and voters


The following interview was edited for clarity.

Eliza Sweren-Becker, Brennan Center for Justice: Federal law sets a floor preventing and prohibiting intimidation of voters and election officials. And those laws are quite strong. They’ve been on the books for a long time and they’ve been enforced for many, many years. The states can go above and beyond that floor to protect voters against intimidation. And they do, in fact, do that. The laws that are specific to Michigan are really complimentary and consistent with the existing federal laws. They’re enforced by different prosecutors as opposed to U.S. attorneys and employees of the U.S. Department of Justice. The laws in Michigan also go to some of the more specific election-related issues that may be occurring in Michigan. For example, Michigan law places a number of guardrails around voter challenges. And that’s something that federal law doesn’t get deeply in the weeds of. But Michigan law constrains them in a number of different ways.

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Quinn Klinefelter, WDET News: There was a controversy at the central Detroit location where they counted votes in the last presidential election. Officials moved some observers out, they complained that they were getting in the way of counting votes, more or less. And those poll watchers claimed that they were being sent out of the area so that they would not see any fraud being committed. What do you suggest either the poll watchers or the workers do in such a situation?

ES: Not knowing the specifics, if those who were present at the vote-counting site were intimidating the election workers or disrupting the election processes, then the election officials and workers were appropriately removing folks. Election observers remained at that vote-counting site and nothing inappropriate happened as a result of those removals. The thing that was inappropriate was the disruptive and intimidating conduct.

QK: Are there any differences in Michigan’s voter intimidation laws as opposed to other states that surprise you in any way?

ES: The protections against intimidating election officials in Michigan, for example, are quite specific. And that’s an issue that we’ve seen come up in Michigan in recent years. And so, the law affords particular protections for election workers and officials explicitly in the Michigan code. And while it’s true that every election worker and poll worker is protected against intimidation, the level of specificity may differ in certain states. It’s a clear and strong protection for election officials and election workers in Michigan.

QK: That’s certainly become an issue in Michigan, as many election workers have talked about fear over their safety, not just during election day or when they are counting votes, but they oftentimes get threatening voicemails or other things directed at them even after a certain candidate has lost. Are there steps that can be taken either during the actual vote counting if intimidation occurs, or something else that election workers can do nowadays, compared to the past, if it happens before or after election day?

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ES: If there are issues that are occurring at a polling place, for example, intimidation by a poll watcher or a challenger, poll workers in Michigan have the authority to remove that disruptive or intimidating poll watcher or challenger from the voting premises. So it’s not just a remedy after the fact. But if there’s instances of misconduct, as they’re occurring poll workers have the power to stop that in its tracks.

QK: If something develops that’s of concern on election day itself, a lot of times you’ll hear major political parties say, “We have attorneys at the ready.” And they say they’ll go to court to make sure that this or that is addressed in some way. For the various workers or voters, for that matter, who might be waiting to cast their vote or in the midst of doing so, what would you suggest they try to do? Especially if they don’t seem to have a group of attorneys at the ready. Are there particular ways that they should protest that they feel like they are being intimidated, or particular officials they should protest that to?

ES: Yes. If somebody is going to the courthouse to vindicate voting access and voting rights, typically the remedy they might get is, for example, an extension of polling place hours to ensure that voters have the opportunity to cast their ballots and any disruption that may have taken place doesn’t infringe on the number of hours that voters are entitled to be able to vote on election day. But in the moment of intimidating or disruptive conduct, the first thing I’d recommend is that a voter alert an election worker to that conduct. Those workers, again, have the authority to maintain order within the polling place. And voters can also call a nonpartisan election protection hotline if they are observing anything that they think is out of the ordinary, that is disruptive, that is intimidating. That is a way to pass along those concerns and complaints. And it could enable that person or set of voters to actually get representation if needed, because nonpartisan lawyers participate in that election protection hotline to make sure that every vote cast counts on election day. That number for election protection is (866) “OUR-VOTE.” There are strong existing state laws and federal laws — including state laws in Michigan — that protect voters from intimidation, election interference and disruption. And laws that likewise protect election officials and election workers. So while it’s something that we are watching very closely, voters and election officials should know that the law has their back.

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  • Quinn Klinefelter is a Senior News Editor at 101.9 WDET. In 1996, he was literally on top of the news when he interviewed then-Senator Bob Dole about his presidential campaign and stepped on his feet.

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Five-Star Wide Receiver Locks In Official Visit With Michigan

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Five-Star Wide Receiver Locks In Official Visit With Michigan


Everyone knows that Michigan loves to run the ball but the Wolverines would love to nab a stud wide receiver or two in the 2025 class. That may just end up being possible with Las Vegas Bishop Gorman five-star Derek Meadows.

The 6-5, 200-pounder is one of the most coveted receivers in the entire nation and recently he put the Wolverines on his calendar as one of the five schools that will receive an official visit.

Five-star wide receiver Derek Meadows has scheduled five official visits starting with Michigan next weekend.

Five-star wide receiver Derek Meadows has scheduled five official visits starting with Michigan next weekend. / 247 Sports

As you can see above, Meadows will kick off his official visits with a trip to Ann Arbor this weekend. Then, for the next three weeks in a row, he’ll check out his four other top schools starting with Georgia and Notre Dame, who might be leading for him, followed by LSU and Alabama.

There are a few things to pay attention to when it comes to Meadows. In the past, this is the type of prospect Michigan wouldn’t have a chance with, but after winning a national title, everyone is paying attention at least a little bit. Also, it’s a little unfortunate that he’ll visit Michigan first, but if Sherrone Moore and Co. knock it out of the park, everyone else could fall short moving forward. Finally, the news that schools can directly pay athletes moving forward bodes very, very well for Michigan as one of the richest schools in the entire country. That has to be a good thing moving forward for Moore and his staff as they start to recruit on another level.

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Michigan State Men’s Basketball Won’t be Playing at Mackey Arena for First Time in Two Seasons

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Michigan State Men’s Basketball Won’t be Playing at Mackey Arena for First Time in Two Seasons


Michigan State men’s basketball’s toughest matchup within the Big Ten in recent years has been against Purdue, the conference’s reigning outright champions.

The Spartans have lost their last five games against the Boilermakers, two of which have been at one of the hardest places to win in all of college basketball as a visiting team, Mackey Arena.

In fact, Michigan State has had to travel to Mackey in each of the last two seasons, the very two seasons Purdue has dominated the Big Ten. One of those matchups was the Spartans’ latest game against Purdue, a rather admirable outing for Michigan State, in which it fell 80-74.

The Spartans had a chance to redeem themselves in the Big Ten tournament but ultimately fell short again. Purdue did not win the conference tournament but went on to finish as the runner-up in the NCAA championship game.

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Fortunately for Michigan State, it will not have to travel to West Lafayette next season. While Spartans coach Tom Izzo is always up for a challenge, not having to go to a place that has served as your kryptonite in recent years has to be looked at as a major benefit.

Michigan State will also not have to face the task of trying to contain center Zach Edey, who entered his name in the NBA Draft this offseason. Edey has won college basketball’s Player of the Year award the last two seasons and was a nightmare for the entire Big Ten to have to guard.

With those two factors now out of the equation, the Spartans should have a great opportunity to break their losing streak against Purdue next season. Their last win over the Boilermakers came in Feb. 2022 at the Breslin Center.

Michigan State will take on Iowa, Maryland, Northwestern, Ohio State, Rutgers, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, UCLA, and USC as part of their conference road games next season. UCLA and USC will be quite unfamiliar territory, as the Spartans have not taken on either team on their home courts in over 20 years.

The Spartans will host Purdue, Indiana, Nebraska, Oregon, Penn State, Washington, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and Minnesota.

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Don’t forget to follow the official Spartan Nation Page on Facebook Spartan Nation WHEN YOU CLICK RIGHT HERE, and be a part of our vibrant community group Go Green Go White as well WHEN YOU CLICK RIGHT HERE.



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