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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer said Wednesday he would make education his top budget priority, but didn't specify how much he'd spend on schools or universities.
Schauer and his running mate, Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown, blasted Republican Gov. Rick Snyder's record on education while presenting their five-page education plan to reporters. Their proposal includes a school adequacy study, expanded teacher training, increased financial aid for college students and standards for class sizes and teacher-student ratios.
"Due to cuts that Gov. Snyder has made, my youngest son is not receiving the same quality of education that his oldest brother received in the same schools," Brown said, citing fewer school programs and increased extracurricular costs.
Schauer and Brown criticized Snyder for cutting more than $1 billion from education to pay for a $1.8 billion tax break for businesses, but the state's K-12 spending — excluding federal, preschool and adult education funding — has increased every year of his term from $10.7 billion to $11.4 billion total, according to the state budget office. Snyder in February proposed spending roughly 3 percent more on K-12 education next school year.
While state spending has risen, it largely has helped to offset lost federal stimulus aid that ended and to meet growing unfunded retirement liabilities from the 2008-09 financial market collapse and a 2010 early-retirement incentive for school employees.
Under Snyder's proposed budget, traditional per-pupil grants would still remain below their levels from 2010-11, the last budget approved by former Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
Schauer and Brown said funding and allocating per-pupil grants should be a priority. They said they'd draw from the state's budget surplus to fund initiatives such as a school adequacy study that would provide information for changes to the per-pupil funding formula "to reflect the higher costs of special education, high school, older students and at-risk children."
They also said all charter, online and new school employees should be required to participate in the state's teacher pension fund "to ensure the long-term solvency." Charter schools should be required to publicize their contracts and documents in order to be more transparent, Schauer said.
"This is about fairness, and putting charters and traditional schools on more equal footing and an equal playing field," he said.
The pair said they would return low-performing schools currently run by the Education Achievement Authority to public school districts. They each called the EAA, a state authority which runs low-performing schools in Detroit, a "failed experiment."
Schauer said he would limit Michigan's School Aid Fund to preschool through 12th grade, excluding higher education costs it now covers.
"This governor has been systematically redirecting those dollars to areas that are also important like community college and higher education, but they should not be part of the School Aid Fund," he said.
Schauer's announcement comes at a time when Republicans are accusing the Democrat of having "no plans" other than to criticize Snyder.
"What he put out is not a plan, it's a campaign brochure," said Snyder campaign communications director Emily Benavides. "There are lots of pictures but there's no real substance or numbers about how he plans on implementing the rhetoric that's in there, which is the same rhetoric we've already heard."
Schauer said he would provide more funding details in his first executive budget as governor in early 2015.
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