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)

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.

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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.”

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.

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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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