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Will students who went without teachers get what they sued for from state budget?

Governor's proposal pays promised settlement
Posted at 12:35 PM, Feb 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-10 12:35:34-05

DETROIT (WXYZ)  — If the governor’s budget is passed as proposed, it would provide the biggest state education funding increase we have seen in Michigan in more than 20 years.

There is one portion of the bill a group of parents and students from Detroit hope passes. They say it symbolizes justice they fought for in court for years.

WXYZ first met Jamarria Hall in 2016. For months, the emergency manager who then-Governor Rick Snyder put in charge, allowed him to be sent to the gym to play basketball when he was supposed to be learning Spanish. The reason? His entire class had no teacher. Jamarria says it is not the only class in which he did not have a teacher.

He and other students and parents sued the state, saying they were being denied their right to literacy. They shared stories of having no school books, having no teachers, and sometimes being taught by classmates.

“I am getting cheated. I am getting cheated out of an education. I am not getting the same,” said Jamarria in 2016.

“We’re standing in front of the federal court where it all started,” said Andrea Thompson, a Detroit Mom who was part of the lawsuit, because her children also were not getting the level of education she felt they should.

WXYZ met Thompson and Hall Wednesday, shortly after they learned Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed education budget funds a settlement they agreed to when they ended the suit. The money doesn’t go to them. It would provide 94.4 million dollars for literacy programs in the Detroit Public Schools, which Jamarria says was the goal.

“We are talking about children. We are talking about lives. We are talking about opportunity. Something you cannot put a dollar amount on,” he said.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed budget also aims to help make sure we have teachers in classrooms.

It calls for $1.6 billion for educator retention programs that include bonuses for school staff who continue working in their districts over the next four years, mentoring programs, scholarships for future educators.

“I like the focus on teacher retention,” said State Representative Brad Paquette (R-78th District).

State Rep. Paquette says he agrees with many of the governor’s proposals but disagrees on how to do them. For example, he asks, if instead of spending more money the state could get around collective bargaining agreements to reward effective teachers with less seniority with higher pay.

“The only way you can get paid more and acknowledged for your work is by working longer and working more years and that is a backward approach,” said Paquette.

The proposed budget would provide $1 billion for the creation of a school infrastructure modernization fund to help schools pay for building improvements.

It would also increase base per-pupil funding from $8700 to $9135 a year.

The legislature would have to approve all of it including the $94.4 million for literacy programs in Detroit before it becomes a reality.

“I am hoping they can work together on both sides of the aisle for the sakes of the future of Michigan. Michigan’s economy is tied to literacy,” said Thompson.