NOVI, MI – How to better support student mental health while looking for ways to recruit and retain K-12 teachers was the focus of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s roundtable with parents, students and the Novi area staff on Wednesday 24 August.
The roundtable is part of a back-to-school tour his administration is launching, which will focus on getting students back into a standard school routine after more than a year of disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic. .
A rather informal event, Whitmer and Novi Public Schools Superintendent Ben Mainka led the discussion with general questions about school safety and education funding which were answered by panel members.
Mental health and physical safety took up most of the conversation on Wednesday, with mention of last year’s shooting at Oxford High School being mentioned frequently during the half hour the group met . Although the two high schools are nearly 40 miles apart, that hasn’t stopped students and parents from saying the incident – in which student Ethan Crumbley shot and killed four of his classmates in November 2021 – still weighed heavily on their minds.
This prompted Whitmer to acknowledge that while the Legislature has allocated funds to expand school safety efforts, more should be expected to happen in the Legislature this fall.
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Earlier this year, lawmakers agreed to an additional budget bill of about $37.3 million which, in addition to increasing funding for Oxford schools to $9.8 million, has established a $15 million pot in statewide grants for school safety assessments, as well as a $12.5 million pot. for statewide grants for critical school mapping.
Whitmer noted that the Legislature “leaved a lot of money on the balance sheet, in the negotiation process, to help districts build their infrastructure,” and said some of that funding — which totals about $7 billion dollars in total – could be used for this purpose. . She also added that gun safety, including safe storage laws and tougher background checks, was a necessary part of that conversation.
“Those are things that I would love to do,” Whitmer said, “and hopefully in the months or years to come, maybe, we can do that. But it’s really important for peace of mind that you can do your job, keep your kids safe…and make your facility a safer place.
Mainka also made a point of praising the recently passed state education budget leading the roundtable – particularly for its investment in school mental health supports for students and staff, as well as for the funding it allocated to school safety.
Earlier this year, the state approved an education budget of more than $22 billion that also allocated the largest investment ever per student in Michigan, at $9,150 per child. This is an increase of $450 per child, which equates to an increase in total costs of $630.5 million over the previous year.
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Speaking to reporters afterwards, Mainka said schools ‘cannot be supported enough’ in the areas of mental health and school safety and spoke of the need for additional infrastructure funding for Michigan schools. .
“I think anxiety, post-Oxford, has become a relevant topic, so we’re approaching it in different ways,” Mainka said. “So I think when I heard the panel speak today, it really surfaced – just the excitement of being able to get into the buildings, but feeling safe. … We have to keep doing these strategic investments as a system.
He, too, said gun safety was a necessary part of the overall conversation about addressing mental health issues and making schools safer for students and staff, telling MLive he thinks – as a gun owner himself – that it was reasonable to expect a gun owner to handle their gun in a safe and responsible manner.
“I was truly grateful that so many people with different viewpoints joined us today to talk about the mental health of our children, the needs of our education staff, public safety when it comes to is about keeping our children safe in schools,” Whitmer told reporters. following the event. “All of these things are connected.”
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