Michigan state budget could include increased funding for schools, lead water testing

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Latest on Michigan’s state budget (all times local):

1:40 p.m.

Michigan schools will see funding increases ranging from $60 to 120 per student next year and continue administering the new M-STEP state standardized test.

A school aid budget approved Tuesday by a legislative conference committee increases the minimum per-pupil funding level to $7,511 and the basic per-pupil funding to $8,229 in the fiscal year starting in October. Overall spending will rise 1.9 percent.

The House has dropped attempts to replace the state’s new standardized test, known as the M-STEP, and to end a required assessment of 11th-graders that includes the SAT.

There is $5 million to cover costs associated with the state taking over schools in the bottom 5 percent on student performance, including the hiring of CEOs to handle academics over the objections of Democrats.

The State School Reform/Redesign Office is being more aggressive since Gov. Rick Snyder moved it to a department over which he has control.

1 p.m.

Michigan’s next state budget will help reimburse schools across the state for the cost of testing for lead in the wake of Flint’s water crisis.

A legislative budget committee on Tuesday approved spending $4.5 million, with a cap of $950 per school building. The water testing is voluntary, but many schools have tested for lead after the Flint disaster exposed problems with aging pipes and plumbing fixtures.

The House-Senate panel also voted to continue reimbursing members of the state Board of Education for travel and per-diem expenses.

House Republicans had moved to strip the money after being angered by the Democratic-led board’s proposed guidance to schools on supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students — including letting them use the bathroom in accordance with their gender identity.

12:20 p.m.

Michigan is boosting pay for nursing aides at a troubled state-run nursing home in Grand Rapids.

A legislative budget committee on Tuesday approved $1.8 million more to increase the wages of privately contracted aides at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. The money is included in a $174 million spending plan for the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs for the fiscal year that will start in October.

In February, Gov. Rick Snyder replaced the director of a veterans agency after an audit uncovered insufficient care and inadequate staffing levels at the 415-resident facility.

The budget advancing in the Legislature also includes $1 million to renovate a floor at the Grand Rapids home.

10:10 a.m.

Michigan is closing one of its 32 prisons to save $22 million in the next fiscal year.

The Pugsley Correctional Facility in Grand Traverse County will close in September. The prison has more than 1,300 beds and 230 employees.

The Corrections Department made the announcement Tuesday, a day before a legislative committee is expected to endorse the closure in the next state budget.

Corrections Director Heidi Washington says it is a “difficult day” for the staff at Pugsley, but closing a prison is the result of hard work to reduce Michigan’s prison population.

It is under 42,000 for the first time in nearly two decades after peaking at 51,554 in 2007.

The department says it will try to move as many Pugsley employees into other vacancies in the agency.

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