School District Gets More From State For Fewer Students, Super Calls It Inadequate

Holland Schools’ budgets also stressed by factors common to districts across the state

Another public school official in Michigan is talking about inadequate state funding as one of the reasons his district is financially strapped.

Holland Public Schools Superintendent Brian Davis told the MLive news site that Michigan has to begin funding schools adequately if it wants to improve education. In the same story, MLive stated that “inadequate state funding” was partly to blame for the district’s fiscal problems.

Yet in the 2016-17 school year, the Holland district received an extra $816 per student from the state compared to 2010-11, even after adjusting for inflation. A big problem for the Holland district is having 345 fewer students than it did in 2010-11. The largest part of state funding is based on enrollment, and the district’s student counts are down 9.1 percent over this period, from 4,120 students in 2011 to 3,775 in 2016-17.

But even with fewer students, the district still received $25.8 million overall from the state last year. That is up $2.9 million since 2010-11, in part due to the higher per-pupil funding. The district also received other revenue streams from the state.

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The Holland district’s budgets are being stressed by a number of issues common to many public schools across the state. Contributions to the state-run school employee pension system cost Holland Public Schools $8.5 million in 2016-17, up from $4.7 million in 2010-11.

The district has also seen a decline in federal funding. It received $7.5 million from the federal government in 2010-11, when dollars from the Obama administration’s stimulus program were flowing. By 2016-17, federal funding was down to $5.0 million.

“Michigan has fallen behind because of its funding,” Davis told MLive. “Over the years, we’ve seen stagnant funding, a significant decline, and last year, an up-growth that was still below the rate of inflation.”

He continued, “For example, he said the district current's $7,631 in per-pupil funding, is just slightly above the $7,448 Holland was receiving almost 10 years ago.”

But these numbers include only one stream of state funding, the district’s per-pupil foundation allowance, determined by a formula that includes both state and local school tax dollars. The foundation allowance accounts for only about 75 percent of what a typical Michigan school district gets from the state.

For example, Holland Public Schools received $1.5 million in extra “at-risk” funding for students from low-income households, $2.3 million for special education, and $3.2 million to help cover those rising pension costs. Those three items came to an additional $7 million on top of the state foundation allowance.
Davis didn't respond to an email seeking comment.

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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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