State budget favorable to MAPS finances
MARQUETTE — Marquette Area Public Schools faces good financial news as the start of the 2022-23 school year looms.
MAPS Assistant Superintendent of Finance Jim Lampman presented an update on the budget at Monday’s regular MAPS Board of Education meeting.
“The state of Michigan recently passed a budget with one of the largest investments in education in the state’s history,” Lampman said.
On July 14, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a bipartisan education budget. According to the governor’s office, it included:
≤ $9,150 per-pupil funding for every youngster in every public school district, marking the highest-ever state amount;
≤ $214 per-pupil mental health and school safety funding for every youngster in every public school district;
≤ additional funding to meet students’ individual needs for all of the nearly 200,000 special education and 710,000 at-risk students;
≤ 1,300 more free preschool slots in the Great Start Readiness Program;
≤ $250 million for school infrastructure; and
≤ $10,000 in tuition for 2,500 future Michigan educators every year.
Lampman outlined some of the planned funding increases.
When MAPS enacted its upcoming budget, it assumed $400 per student to its foundation allowance, he said, but the state budget allows a $450 increase. That will generate about an extra $155,000 for the school district.
Lampman said the state also is funneling $222 million into at-risk funding, which he called “fantastic.”
Another recipient of a funding increase, he noted, is special education, to the tune of $312 million, and putting in an extra $1 billion toward the state’s pension plan for school districts.
One of the biggest initiatives, Lampman said, is teacher recruitment and retention.
“I think we can all agree that it’s been difficult finding teachers as of late,” he said.
As part of the budget, $175 million statewide has been put toward Grow Your Own programs that will allow school districts and intermediate school districts to provide pathways for support staff to become certified teachers, Lampman said. The state also is providing $280 million in supplemental appropriations for educator fellowship and private programs.
School wellness and mental health will receive $150 million for flexible spending for school districts so they can hire support staff, implement screening tools, provide consultants and other actions, Lampman said.
“I think a lot of this will end up being grant-based, and we’re just seeing guidance come out as to how the state is going to get this money down to local districts,” he said.
Hosting community conversations about mental wellness and health is a requirement, which Lampman acknowledged is an initiative already in the works in the community.
“I think MAPS, where we are, is kind of mirroring what the state budget has outlined,” Lampman said.
The state also will put $168 million in the budget for safety needs for school districts, he said.
“Those are some of the highlights that came out of the state budget,” Lampman said, “and I think it’s going to be phenomenal for the school district this year. Again, the state budget is targeting a lot of the initiatives that MAPS has already had in the works. So, it’s nice to see that at the local level, we’re mirrored with the state.”
MAPS Superintendent Zach Sedgwick said, “The budget was very, very favorable to all public school districts and some of the initiatives that we have in place.”
The first day of school is Sept. 6.
Sedgwick also gave an update on recent MAPS infrastructure projects that have been completed or are about to be completed.
For example, he said Graveraet Elementary School is getting ready to be paved, with sidewalk and curbing already finished. A new fence has been installed at Sandy Knoll Elementary School, which he noted should alleviate concerns about students not being contained on the property.
Other improvements, Sedgwick said, include a boiler being installed at Marquette Senior High School, buildings being cleaned to ready them for the school year and “problematic” trees having been removed. The Bothwell Middle School air-conditioning unit, however, still is in the design phase with structural engineers helping with that design.
Whitmer makes sales tax proposal
Whitmer on Tuesday proposed suspending the Michigan sales tax on school supplies, part of her MI Back to School Plan to help families get ready for the upcoming school year by lowering costs and building on the budget she signed in July.
“Getting this done would lower costs for parents, teachers and students right now, and ensure that they have the resources to succeed,” Whitmer said in a statement.