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Give schools the specifics they need

We are excited to see that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s team has determined the coronavirus spread has slowed enough that kids can return to school in the summer.

We were glad to see, too, lawmakers this week release a $1.3 billion proposal to help that happen safely.

The plan includes an $800-per-student payment to help with costs related to the pandemic and a $500 bonus for teachers.

Also, while state law usually requires kids to be present in school buildings on Count Day for schools to get credit toward per-pupil payments from the state, lawmakers would give schools credit for students taking online courses, should in-person classes be unsafe.

But Northeast Michigan school leaders told News reporter Crystal Nelson for a recent story that the plan still lacks many of the specifics they need, such as how the $800-per-pupil payment can be used. It still isn’t clear how schools will be held accountable for annual standardized tests, given that students lost weeks of instruction at the end of last school year when the governor closed schools to help prevent the virus’ spread.

Also unknown is what’s going to happen long-term.

Coronavirus-related shutdowns of the economy drained the state’s School Aid Fund of $1.2 billion in tax revenue this year and an expected $1.1 billion next year. Lawmakers’ plan unveiled this week counts on some flexibility in $3 billion in federal aid passed on to the state, and Congress hasn’t granted that flexibility, yet.

School leaders already have to budget in the blind, with their fiscal years starting three months before they typically know how much money they’ll get from the state.

We hope lawmakers in Lansing and Washington will give schools the specifics they need — and soon.

(THE ALPENA NEWS)

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