Gov. Whitmer July 13, 2021

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs a $17 billion education bill into law. 

(The Center Square) – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an education bill into law after line-item vetoing $155 million to help struggling kindergarten through five-year-olds recover from COVID-19 learning loss.

Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP) Executive Director Beth DeShone criticized the line-item veto.

“Gretchen Whitmer locked students out of their classrooms for months, and now she’s slashed $155 million in education funding meant to help kindergartners and elementary school students who fell behind during the pandemic,” DeShone said in a statement. "Today’s veto of broadly bipartisan reading support targeted Michigan’s kids who need help the most. The Governor is playing the worst kind of politics, and our kids, our teachers, and our schools are paying the price.”

House Bill 4411 would have disbursed $155 million to Grand Valley State University (GVSU) to start a grant program for struggling students. Whitmer’s office hasn't yet responded to a request for comment.

Rob Kimball, GSVU associate vice president, said," GVSU is finding new and innovative ways to engage learners of all ages, and our faculty and students continue to design impactful programs like our K-12 Connect Virtual Tutoring, which has been successful in supporting the challenges of learning during a pandemic," Kimball wrote in an email. "We look forward to supporting future conversations in which the university can contribute more to K-12 education in Michigan."

 The now-stricken bill language would have allowed GVSU to spend up to $1,000 per child on tutoring services, instruction materials, or specialized summer learning.

Eligible children would have had to be enrolled in kindergarten through 5th grade, be less than proficient in reading based on available assessment data, and the child would have had to applied for a reading scholarship through the grant program.

The veto followed the governor signing a bipartisan $17 billion education plan to eliminate the funding gap between districts at the minimum and maximum foundation allowances— a goal for nearly three decades.

Whitmer wrote in her veto letter the bill “makes historic investments in Michigan’s kids without raising taxes” but gave no reason for slashing $155 million to fund COVID-19 learning loss recovery for low-income students, children with disabilities, and foster kids.

The budget includes $723 million to eliminate the gap between the minimum and maximum foundation allowance by setting both at $8,700 per pupil, an increase of $589 per pupil from the current year minimum amount, and an increase of $171 per pupil from the current year target amount. Intermediate school districts will receive a 4% operational funding increase.

Staff Reporter

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.