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Funding, Broadband Among Challenges for MI Schools

Some Michigan students lack the technology needed at home for distance learning. (AdobeStock)
Some Michigan students lack the technology needed at home for distance learning. (AdobeStock)
July 2, 2020

LANSING, Mich. -- Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's new MI Safe Schools Roadmap is providing a clearer picture of what districts can expect in the fall, but Michigan educators still are facing a good deal of uncertainty.

As a middle-school teacher in Crawford County, Craig Hofman sees funding as a major concern, especially for some rural districts.

"The smaller they are and the more money they lose, the tougher it is to get that money back," Hofman explained. "But they're all doing a great job, doing what they think is best for students, and they're trying to support families at home."

Technology and connectivity also present a challenge, according to Michigan State Superintendent of Public Education Dr. Michael Rice. He said one student out of every three doesn't have broadband at home.

"You can imagine what to close that connectivity divide between those who have and those who don't is going to cost," Rice warned. "We badly need more funding from the feds."

According to Hofman, teachers and other school staff have been working during these early summer months to ensure that families have the support they need during the crisis.

"Our para-pros, food-service workers, secretaries, bus drivers, maintenance people, have all been working through this time, and so have the teachers," he said. "But they've been working on the front line at school, making sure kids get food and things like that, a few times a week."

And Rice commends Michigan students, whom he said have risen to the challenge of distance learning.

"Sitting six, seven, eight hours in front of a computer is brutally difficult," he added. "I'm so hopeful that we'll be able to stay 'in person' through a good portion of the year. Our young people really need our educators, and our educators love our kids."

The federal Heroes Act would provide up to $100 billion in aid to local school districts. The bill was passed by the House but has not yet been considered by the Senate, which breaks for recess today (Thursday).

Meanwhile, Gov. Whitmer announced $256 million in new school funding to help offset costs associated with the pandemic.

Disclosure: American Federation of Teachers contributes to our fund for reporting on Education, Health Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI