LANSING (Great Lakes News) – Republican lawmakers are challenging the governor’s cuts to charter school funding.
Gov. Whitmer’s line item vetoes are facing organized retaliation from Republicans, who are presenting a series of bills to return some of the nearly $1 billion cut from the state budget. In a closed-door session, Whitmer asked lobbyists to pressure the GOP into presenting supplemental budget bills related to lobbying objectives. Republicans proposed bills returning funding to private college students, airport grants for PFAS testing, autism navigator, and several other cut budget items. Two of the proposed supplemental budget items return cut funding to Michigan charter schools.
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The senate bill related to charter schools, SB 0555, provides a funding increase for charter schools. The bill was introduced by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas (R-Midland) and matches the same $8,111 maximum per pupil as traditional public schools. Stamas established himself as an early critic of Whitmer’s vetoes.
“Although I’m happy the governor signed the budget with increased funding for K-12 education and drinking water protections, I am extremely disappointed with her nearly $1 billion in line-item vetoes,” Stamas said. “We delivered a responsible and balanced state budget on time that increased funding for roads and schools, and she virtually gutted it because it doesn’t include her massive $2.5 billion tax hike on Michigan families.”
Charter school advocacy groups like The Great Lakes Education Project mimicked Stamas’ criticisms. The Great Lakes Education Project claims that cuts to charter schools disproportionately harms low-income and minority students, as charter schools in Detroit serve them at a higher rate.
“The Great Lakes Education Project was deeply saddened to see Governor Whitmer callously use her veto pen to harm some of Michigan’s most vulnerable students with her cuts to public charter schools, early literacy supports and rural, isolated school districts,” said Beth DeShone, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Education Project. “The legislature made students a priority in their bi-partisan budgets while Governor Whitmer used students as a political pawn. We continue to work daily to ensure the Governor and legislature understand that all students must be treated equally.”
The House bill was introduced by Rep. Annette Glenn (R- Midland). HB 5078 would restore $15 million in funding to implement K-3 summer school programs for students who are not reading at grade level and could be held back as a result. Whitmer’s initial decision to make the veto moved against her public stance as a champion for literacy. Glenn also introduced a bill reversing cuts to Medicaid reimbursement rates for providers of neonatology services.
“The governor is holding funding to help school children and newborns hostage as she tries to force lawmakers to agree to her misguided proposal to raise the gas tax by 45 cents per gallon,” Glenn said. “I can’t allow that to happen. Children who need help learning to read and newborns in need of special care should not be used as pawns in a political battle. I am proud to stand with my legislative colleagues to oppose her cuts, and stand up for all of Michigan’s children.”
Both bills are currently sitting in committee, and will be voted on sometime in the next few weeks. In the meantime, charter schools like Old Mission Peninsula School in Traverse City are already feeling the funding squeeze. Whitmer has yet to announce if she will veto any of the supplemental budget additions, and has presented her own version of a supplemental budget that reverses some of the funding cuts she made in secondary road patrol and the autism navigator program.