The pandemic was hard on all of us, especially on our kids. Every one of us could share stories about the challenges our children faced and the obstacles they overcame. At the heart of each of those stories of persistence is a school principal, bus driver, educator, janitor, librarian or support staff who went above and beyond to support our students.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to these education professionals, and I am proud of the bipartisan School Aid bill we signed recently that invests over $17 billion dollars to help schools succeed and get our kids back on track. There’s a lot in this budget to celebrate – but three deserve a special shout out.

Eliminating the Funding Gap

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

First and foremost: we are eliminating the funding gap between schools—without raising taxes. This goal has been on the books for 27 years, when it was included in Proposal A. This budget ensures every school district has the same baseline funding of $8,700 per child. That’s a huge win for Michiganders across the state.

In Genesee County, closing the funding gap means every district can hire more top-notch teachers and bring more nurses, psychologists and social workers to our schools. It means updated textbooks, upgraded facilities and new sports equipment.

Equal funding, however, does not mean we’ve achieved equity. We recognize that funding should increase with student need, and I’m proud that we are taking steps toward equity in this year’s budget too.

Expanding Access to Preschool

We are also expanding access to our homegrown preschool program, the Great Start Readiness Program, or GSRP, for 22,000 more four-year-olds. This investment ensures that all our youngest Michiganders, no matter where they live, are set up for success in grade school.

Access to quality preschool programs helps more than just our kids. It also helps get Michiganders back to work by giving parents the peace of mind to know their kids are cared for in a safe learning environment while they work. We are committed to supporting more quality, affordable options for parents and this is a ‘great start.’

Supporting a Comprehensive Student Recovery

We want every student to thrive academically, mentally and physically, so we’ve included an additional $240 million dollars for school psychologists, social workers, counselors and nurses in our schools.

Best of all, these investments work in tandem with the $4.4 billion in federal relief funds I signed in June. Those funds will help us start the school year strong and deliver on the comprehensive recovery our kids need and deserve.

Driving Michigan’s Economic Jumpstart

This historic investment in our kids and schools will help us continue our economic jumpstart. Every policy we are pursuing right now is laser-focused on helping us emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever. Early indicators show that our economic efforts are working.

We went from a projected $3 billion deficit to a $3.5 billion surplus. Our unemployment rate is lower than the national average. Our economy grew the fastest in the Midwest over the first three months of 2021. We are also putting resources directly into Genesee County, from a much-needed fresh food market in the north Flint community, to the Greater Flint Health Coalition headquarters downtown, to 90 new jobs at Goyette Mechanical Co., and accelerating the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem through our support for the Flint Ferris Wheel. We will continue our collaboration with local and regional economic development partners to ensure the future is bright both here in Flint and around the state.

To further our economic jumpstart, I recently laid out a $2.1 billion plan to grow the middle class and educate more workers, support small businesses and create more good-paying jobs, and invest in our communities. This proposal takes full advantage of the billions in federal dollars we have by, among other things, growing Michigan Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners, providing grants to small businesses, building housing, rehabilitating abandoned buildings, redeveloping brownfields, and building a strong foundation for our families, communities and small businesses to succeed.

I know that if we put Michiganders first, we can power our economy to new highs. I look forward to getting it done.