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Educators, state leaders speak in support of increased education dollars

Grand Rapids — For each day of Teacher Appreciation week, Angela DeLuca Placencia and her three children showed their teachers some love with homemade gifts at North Park Montessori. 

But while teachers are grateful for paper flowers and donuts, Placencia believes they would feel more appreciated if their financial needs were met. 

GRPS Superintendent Leadriane Roby speaks at a press conference to celebrate educators during Teacher Appreciation Week and discuss the state’s proposed K-12 education budget

She shared that message during a recent press conference at Union High School with Grand Rapids Public Schools educators, State Superintendent Michael Rice and Michigan Education Association Executive Director Mike Shoudy. 

The state’s proposed K-12 education budget could help meet that goal, they discussed. Watch the full press conference here

“We’re doing all that we can and I’m glad to see that Governor Whitmer is  doing her part as well. We appreciate that,” Placencia said. “Our teachers are working hard to meet the education and mental health needs of their students, so we need to pay them for the work that they do.”

Investing in Michigan Teachers and Students 

The proposed school aid budget marks “the biggest state education funding increase in more than 20 years – without raising taxes,” according to Whitmer’s 2023 Budget press release. If passed, per-pupil funding would increase from $8,700 to $9,135 per student. 

‘State leaders must take immediate action to recruit new teachers, increase compensation for educators and support staff, listen to voices of educators and respect teachers as professionals.’

–Michigan Education Association Executive Director Mike Shoudy
State Superintendent Michael Rice discusses the importance of providing funds and support for students and teachers in schools

“We’ve underfunded public education for more than two decades in this state and it’s going to take more than a budget to get us back to where we need to be,” Rice said. “This budget goes a long way of getting us back.” 

This budget also earmarks funds to support economically disadvantaged students, special education students, vocational education and career and technical education, English language learners, and students in rural and isolated districts. Additional dollars support educator retention programs to “make sure educators have the support they need and the recognition they deserve for the work they do.” 

Support for student mental health services is also a major focus. “Mental health services are desperately needed in our schools. The budget includes major increases in mental health services for students, which would be a transformative investment,” Shoudy said. “The most impactful thing we can do is encourage lawmakers to pass Whitmer’s budget.”  

Shoudy said schools are facing staffing shortages and acknowledged that “educators across Michigan are at a breaking point.” 

Michigan Education Association Executive Director Mike Shoudy encourages legislators to help pass Governor Whitmer’s education budget

“State leaders must take immediate action to recruit new teachers, increase compensation for educators and support staff, listen to voices of educators and respect teachers as professionals,” he said. 

Superintendent Leadriane Roby thanked teachers for “demonstrating dedication, grit, passion, love and resilience,” especially over the past few years.

“Whitmer’s proposed historic budget is a giant leap forward for our students, the retention and recruitment of teachers and a statewide plan to uplift teachers and retain existing teachers,” Roby said.

Grand Rapids University Preparatory Academy math teacher Wendy Winston called on state legislators to “set aside partisan politics to help our governor pass this budget for the sake of our children’s future.”

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter, covering Caledonia, Kenowa Hills, Godfrey-Lee, Grand Rapids and is a roving reporter for GRCC, Wyoming, Kentwood and Byron Center. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News - covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry.  Following a stint as a copywriter for a Grand Rapids area PR firm, she transitioned from communications to freelance writing and reporting for SNN.  Read Alexis' full bio

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