New data from the state (available in this online database) show that despite constant calls from school officials and government employee union bosses for more funding, public schools in Michigan received more money in 2011 than ever before — about $13,405 per pupil. Total school spending, however, did drop from its all-time high in 2010 — by less than 1 percent. Schools spent $12,778 per pupil last year overall, with $11,561 of that spent on day-to-day operating expenses.

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Dissecting the data exposes interesting trends. For instance, although overall school spending was down slightly, there was one area that saw consistent growth over last year: employee benefits. This spending was up in per-pupil terms by about 2 percent overall, and in 2011 schools devoted about 26 percent of total operating expenditures to employee benefits — just over $3,000 per pupil.

The data also show that public charter schools spent on average significantly less per pupil than conventional districts in 2011. In total per-pupil expenditures, charters spent about 17 percent less than district-run schools — $9,979 to $11,961, respectively. Intermediate school districts spent another $1.5 billion, making the total non-charter school spending about $12,995 per pupil in 2011.

Here are the top 10 highest and lowest spending districts (with more than 1,000 students) in per-pupil terms from 2011:

 


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As part of our efforts on government transparency, we obtained data on the compensation of most public employees in the state. This information has been used to fact check claims about salaries, verify data from other open records requests, and hold government spending accountable.

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