LANSING, Mich. — President Joe Biden and Congress announced back in March that $3.7 billion would go to Michigan schools to help children as they passed the American Rescue Plan.
But in that plan is a rule: Michigan’s leaders have to allocate these dollars to schools by May 24. Unfortunately, the state has missed that deadline.
The Michigan Department of Education sent the required notification to the federal government that the allocations did not happen by deadline.
“We are now jeopardizing $3.7 billion dollars in funding for our students' recovery,” said Robert McCann, executive director of K-12 Alliance of Michigan.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) called for the rule that the money be allocated by May 24, 60 days after it was made available to states. She wanted to prevent the money from being withheld from schools for political reasons.
“Sen. Stabenow added some language to encourage our legislature and our governor to work together and get this funding done sooner rather than later,” McCann said.
WXYZ asked State Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R- Traverse City), who is the Education Appropriations Chair in charge of allocating school dollars in the State Senate, about the money.
“We’ve gotten the dollars out through the supplemental process. There are more federal dollars coming. We plan on getting all of the federal dollars out, meeting timelines and deadlines,” Schmidt said.
The fact is the legislature is not meeting deadlines. The Michigan Department of Education sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education notifying it as required by law that the allocations were not made by the May 24 deadline. Schmidt said he would have to look into that, but that there have been delays due to disagreements between the House, Senate and governor’s office.
“The House and the Senate have some different ideas and the administration has been a unique challenge to communicate with, that is the biggest thing,” Sen. Schmidt said.
Schmidt said he has not had a meeting with a member of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration since 2019.
Whitmer’s office responded by saying that the governor has weekly or bi-weekly meetings with legislative leaders on policy and is available.
Schmidt said school leaders should feel confident they will receive those dollars in time, adding that they're not planning on sending those dollars back, he said.
“Right now those dollars are being held hostage at the state level and they are not in the hands of those educating our students,” said Paul Salah, superintendent of Huron Valley Schools.
Salah said his district is expecting to receive about $5 million in funding of the $3.7 billion and wants to use it to help kids catch up academically.
The amount each district will receive has been estimated by the Michigan Department of Education. It is based on the number of students and poverty rates.
Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti says he expects to get hundreds of millions of dollars for learning programs and improving infrastructure such as HVAC systems to prevent the spread of illnesses.
“This is going to grow as an issue if those dollars aren’t in, because we have a lot planned for the summer and the fall that are linked to those dollars,” Dr. Vitti said.