Michigan state budget proposal: U-M expert sees promise with respect to prioritizing education

February 8, 2024
Concept illustration of a piggy bank wearing a graduation cap. Image credit: Nicole Smith, made with Midjourney


A University of Michigan expert says it’s heartening to see public education prioritized in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s spending plan for the upcoming year.

Samantha Keppler
Samantha Keppler

Still, Samantha Keppler, an assistant professor at U-M’s Ross School of Business whose expertise is in education operations, cautions the true test will be how effectively the money will be spent in schools—if the proposed budget unveiled this week is adopted by lawmakers.

Here are some of her thoughts on the budget plan, which include making two years of community college free to any new high school graduate and expanding taxpayer-funded preschool programs to be free for any 4-year-old, regardless of family income:

“It is great to see education as a top priority. I wish this would happen at the federal level, and in the presidential race. However, budgets are only the start.

“What matters is how the money is used by districts, schools and, ultimately, teachers and students. States know that getting kids back on track is worth spending money on. But they still don’t really know how to spend money most effectively.

“Several states, including Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Alaska and most recently Connecticut, have given $800-$1,000 directly to teachers for them to spend on whatever it is they need for their students—supplies, materials, classroom furniture, etc. It doesn’t look like this is in the Michigan budget.

“Michigan seems to be taking a top-down approach, giving districts control over whether to, for example, implement one-on-one tutoring programs. A concern is whether some districts will overlook the teacher workforce at a time when teacher turnover and shortages are on everyone’s mind.”