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Republicans propose $1.3B plan to help Michigan K-12 schools reopen

Republicans who control the Michigan Legislature proposed a $1.3 billion plan last week to help K-12 schools reopen during the coronavirus pandemic, saying districts should have flexibility to start when they want and to offer remote instruction as an alternative if necessary.


The one-time funding, including an $800 per-pupil increase to address new costs related to COVID-19, would come from $3 billion in federal relief. Teachers would get a $500 bonus.


Currently, there is uncertainty among local school districts on how that money, if approved could be spent. 


"There is still a lot of uncertainty in our school budgets right now, but it is great to see that our legislators realize that it will cost more to educate our kids safely and effectively during this pandemic." Big Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Tim Haist said. 


Morley Stanwood Schools Superintendent Roger Cole believes it's great if they can get funding for schools but how that money can be spent is the bigger question because it would come from a federal relief bill. 


"There is a meeting coming up soon I'll be attending, so I can get some more questions answered but if this money can't be used to backfill the billion dollar state school aid fund deficit, which affects our budgets and could create a deficit, so to be honest, would it be helpful?, yes does it solve my problem locally? no."  Cole said. It would be terrific if this money could be used with "no strings attached" Cole added. 


Under the proposal, it calls for requiring in-person instruction for grades K-5 at a minimum, redefining “attendance” to allow for online learning without reducing schools' funding and cutting the number of snow day allowances from six to two so remote instruction occurs instead. Districts would work with local health departments on safety requirements for schools, sports and extracurricular activities. They also would do initial benchmark testing to assess if students need additional attention.


State lawmakers adjourned session last week until until July 21 at the earliest around when Congress may consider relaxing how states can spend rescue funds and if additional aid should be approved.

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