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The Associated Press May 27, 2010, 9:13AM ET

Michigan Democrats vote to restore schools money

The state's public schools would get $65 more per student through a version of a budget bill approved by the Democrat-run Michigan House.

The bill, which passed 64-42 Wednesday mostly along party lines, would give schools the money this fiscal year and maintain it in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. The move would restore part of a $165 per student cut now in effect this year for schools across the state.

The Republican-led Senate earlier this year passed a version of the budget that would have cut state aid to schools by an additional $118 per student starting next fiscal year. But projections for the school aid fund have improved since then because of better-than-expected sales tax revenue, leaving the school aid fund with a possible surplus this year.

Many lawmakers aren't convinced the economy has turned around solidly enough to restore all of the recently cut school aid money, but they want to try and help school finances moving into the summer.

"We want to go with some cautious optimism here," said Rep. Terry Brown, a Democrat from Pigeon.

Many Republicans say the economy is still too skittish to promise the money to schools.

"It's spending money we don't have," said Rep. Chuck Moss, R-Birmingham.

The Senate and House will try to resolve their differences on the bill over the next several weeks.

School finances also could be helped by a new state law aimed at saving schools money on pension costs.

Teachers retiring this summer will get slightly better pension benefits than they would otherwise. School employees who remain on the job will pay 3 percent of their salaries into a retiree health trust. Supporters of the plan say it could save more than $3 billion for school districts over the next decade, but critics of the plan say the savings are overestimated.

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