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The Michigan Senate approved an increase in funding for state universities, community colleges and public schools Tuesday, passing the final piece of the state budget for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.
The House passed the education budget deal on Friday and the rest of the $48.2 billion budget was passed last week by both chambers. The whole package now goes to Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature.
Democrats decried the increases in education funding as "paltry," saying the budget doesn't do enough to make up for cuts last year.
"It continues a deeply damaging approach to funding Michigan's educational system," said Westland Democratic Sen. Glenn Anderson. "Our higher education institutions endured some of the most severe budget cuts in history. This year ... doesn't even come close to making them whole again."
Current university funding is down 15 percent from a year ago. Many institutions raised tuition nearly 7 percent to make up for the lost state support.
Under the new deal, universities would receive an overall 3 percent increase in funding. The education package would require universities to hold tuition and fee increases to no more than 4 percent or lose part of their state funding. The budget includes a $36 million increase for public universities, to $1.4 billion, as well as $200 million more for public schools, which will get $12.9 billion overall. Community colleges will get $10.3 million more, for a total of $294 million.
All three must meet performance requirements to qualify for much of the extra money. Some of the new funding will go to the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System to cover pension and retiree health care costs.
Increases for individual universities would range from less than 1 percent at Wayne State University in Detroit to 8.2 percent for Saginaw Valley State University. Besides tuition and fee restraint, other factors that affect how much each university would receive are how well it compares to its national peers, the number of graduates in high-demand areas, total degree completions and how much research and development it does.
Lawmakers hoped to send the entire budget to Snyder by June 1, but differences delayed completion.
Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville disputed Democrats' criticisms that the budget package is an attack on education. He said it retained the amount of school-aid funding and paid off some long term school debt.
He said the final budget deal contained "some responsible things," though "maybe some is painful."
Not all Republicans supported the measures. Sen. John Pappageorge of Troy objected to what he considered a lack of clarity to many the best practices criteria upon which much of the extra money for educational institutions is based.
"I am for best practices," he said. "But they need some work and they need to be fleshed out so they are fair and understandable for everyone."