LANSING — The Republican-controlled Michigan Senate approved a measure Wednesday to cut public school funding, clearing a difficult hurdle in the quest to finish the budget by the end of the month.
The measure approved 21-16 mostly along party lines would cut funding by an additional $300 per pupil in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. A portion of those cuts — roughly $100 per student — would be offset by money to help schools make their contributions to the employee retirement system. Some districts also could get another $100 per student if they achieve so-called "best financial practices," which include such things as consolidating services.
The $300 cut will come on top of a $170 per student reduction implemented this fiscal year.
The bill will be sent to the House, where it will be folded into a larger budget bill and likely approved this month.
Democrats said the measure approved by the Senate is better than Republican Gov. Rick Snyder's original budget proposal for schools. But Democrats remain upset that there are school aid cuts at all, saying they are not necessary and are being made only to help pay for a business tax cut Republicans wanted.
"It is a budget that robs our kids' future," said Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, the Democrats' leader in the Senate.
Sen. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, said the budget is "appropriate" given how much money the state has available, and it keeps school funding as a top priority.
Republicans Bruce Caswell of Hillsdale, Mike Green of Mayville, Rick Jones of Grand Ledge, Mike Nofs of Battle Creek and Tory Rocca of Sterling Heights joined Democrats in voting against the school aid bill.
Democratic Sen. Bert Johnson of Highland Park was absent and didn't vote.