In this update:
- Nonpublic School Funds Left Intact in Education Budget Signed into Law
- Governor Signs Bills Restricting Counselors’ Speech Over MCC Objections
Nonpublic School Funds Left Intact in Education Budget Signed into Law
The Governor signed the state education budget into law recently and made no line-item vetoes, meaning the appropriated funding for nonpublic schools across the state will take effect for the fiscal year that begins in October.
The spending provisions for nonpublic schools in the new budget include:
- $18 million provided for nonpublic schools for school safety-related projects as well as mental health services.
- $3 million for nonpublic high school students to dual enroll in college courses and earn college credits.
- $1 million to reimburse nonpublic schools for the cost of complying with state health and safety mandates.
- $600,000 in grants for robotics teams for nonpublic schools.
There was also another $31 million provided for mental health services that is geared toward local school districts but can also be provided to local nonpublic school students upon request.
However, nonpublic schools were left out of funding opportunities for state programs that are designed to increase the number of teachers. College students completing a student teacher assignment cannot receive a stipend under a state program if doing so in a nonpublic school. Also, college students receiving teaching degrees would only be able to obtain state-funded future teacher fellowship awards if they subsequently teach in public schools, but not nonpublic schools.
Nonpublic school students were also left out of an expansion of school lunch programs to provide meals to public school students who do not qualify under federal income standards.
Brian Broderick, executive director of the Michigan Association of Nonpublic Schools (MANS), spoke about this exclusion in a recent article published by the Capitol subscription news service Gongwer, saying, “I don’t understand why students at nonpublic schools would be any less eligible than students at public schools to participate in this additional funding program to provide breakfast and lunch for students. They have the same learning needs as any other student so if the focus is a well-fed student learns better, then it shouldn’t matter where they go to school.”
Both Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) and MANS will continue to advocate for the inclusion of nonpublic schools in these funding programs in future spending bills that come before the Legislature.
The state education budget overall totaled more than $24 billion, with $21 billion geared toward K–12 education, $2 billion toward universities and roughly $500 million for community colleges.
The general state government budget bill has not yet been signed into law.
Governor Signs Bills Restricting Counselors’ Speech Over MCC Objections
The Governor signed a pair of bills this week that MCC warned would restrict speech in counselor-patient settings and goes beyond the stated intent of the legislation.
Despite MCC’s advocacy against the bill — as well as the more than 1,000 messages sent by grassroots Catholics urging a veto — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer still signed House Bills 4616 and 4617 into law.
The bills collectively ban mental health professionals from using “any practice or treatment” that “seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.” The prohibition applies to minor patients only and mental health professionals would be subject to discipline and licensing sanctions if they are found to violate the law.
MCC previously noted that while intent of the legislation may be to protect children from inappropriate or coercive practices in a counseling setting, the specific language would also restrict talk therapy by banning “any practice or treatment,” thus creating free speech restrictions that may well be unconstitutional.
It should also be noted that MCC would have supported legislation — narrowly and specifically worded — that restricts unethical or illegitimate counseling practices, as such practices undermine the dignity of the person. But the legislation signed into law was overly broad and goes beyond its intended purpose, which is why MCC opposed it.
MCC extends gratitude to the grassroots activists of the Catholic Advocacy Network like you that responded to the call to speak against this legislation and sent a message to the Governor. Nearly 1,000 advocates sent messages to the Governor after MCC issued an action alert earlier this month.