State closes grant program to reimburse schools for lead testing

Jan 26, 2018

A grant program to reimburse schools that test for lead in their water has been cut from the state budget.

For fiscal year 2017, the Michigan state legislature appropriated $4 million for the Department of Education program, but those funds have since lapsed. The program was defunded in the fiscal year 2018 budget due to its lack of success.

When the program ended on September 30, just over $420,000 had been awarded to schools.

Kyle Guerrant, a deputy superintendent for the Michigan Department of Education, attributes part of the program’s lack of success to the fact that there were minimal funds available for schools to begin with.

“The amount of money really made it prohibitive for people to apply,” Guerrant said. “So originally the governor had requested $9 million to be put toward the lead testing, and through the budget process it was knocked down to $4 million, so the amount of money schools could then seek to be reimbursed was then cut in half.”

Under the guidelines of the grant program, districts could be awarded a maximum of $950 for each of its schools, regardless of size.

“The amount of money was the same per building,” Guerrant said. “So, whether you had a smaller elementary school or you had a large high school that had significantly more fixtures and faucets and bathrooms associated with it to test, it wasn’t enough money to entice people to use the resources.”

Other schools weren’t eligible to participate because they tested their water before the program opened and before the Department of Environmental Quality released its guidelines for effective school water testing.

In a supplemental budget appropriation, the state re-appropriated Guerrant’s team with $1 million in December, which they plan to use to create resources, such as online videos, that teach schools how to clean and flush their water themselves.

“We’re just trying to make the best of the resources that are left to support schools who are taking a look at their water and want to make sure that they are doing things correctly to keep kids healthy and safe,” Guerrant said.