LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed off on a $17.1 billion K-12 budget on Tuesday, July 13,  in Grand Rapids in an effort to close a decades-long funding gap among school districts in Michigan.

In a photo from July 12, 2021, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at a vaccine mobilization event before Vice President Kamala Harris takes the stage at the TCF Center in Detroit. Gov. Whitmer signed off on a $17.1 billion K-12 budget Tuesday in Grand Rapids, a 10% increase in overall funding that aims to close a decades-long funding gap among school districts in Michigan. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

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The new budget raises overall funding for schools by 10% and brings the per-student state aid minimum to $8,700 per student. This change will raise per-student funding by $589 in the majority of Michigan’s school districts, while the districts that already receive the most funding will get a $171 per-student increase.

Whitmer called the budget a historic investment in schools and a team effort with the Legislature. Though more equal funding doesn’t mean equity between school districts, Whitmer said the budget is an important step.

“Every district can hire more top-notch teachers and bring on more nurses and psychologists and school social workers to help our students,” Whitmer said at a news conference. “It means updated textbooks and upgraded facilities and sports equipment. This has been the goal on our books since 1994.”

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Whitmer noted the importance of funding mental health efforts in schools, especially considering the emotional toll of the COVID-19 pandemic. The budget allots $240 million to hire additional counselors, psychologists, and nurses for schools.

Part of the budget also expands state-funded preschool to 22,000 eligible 4-year-olds who are not yet enrolled. The goal is to enroll all of the 65,400 eligible children through programs helping low-income families, such as the federal Head Start Program and the state’s Great Start Readiness Program.

Legislators incorporated a $155 million literacy program to be administered by Grand Valley State University for students to reach reading landmarks. Through the program, families of K-5 students can receive $1,000 scholarships to be used for tutoring and other programming to support learning.

There is also a $135 million allotment to be distributed among schools that operate on a year-round “balanced” calendar.

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