News Story

Michigan PTA President Says Top Spending Highland Park District Needs More Money

Failing school district already spends nearly $20K per student

Shaton Berry, president of the Michigan PTA, said in a recent MLive story that cuts in funding led to the problems of Highland Park Public Schools.

But since the district spends nearly $20,000 per student, the question must be asked: How much money is enough?

In 2010-11, Highland Park spent $19,634 per pupil on operating expenses, making it the highest statewide in per-pupil spending. Detroit was the fifth-highest spending district at $15,884 per pupil. 

The ACLU recently sued the state of Michigan and the Highland Park School District for failing to provide adequate resources to help its students reach their grade level in reading.

“When the Legislature cuts funding for public education, this is the result: Students who are years behind grade level in reading and mathematics and districts without the resources to provide adequate instruction or remediation,” Berry said.

But Berry appears to contradict her own statement when she told MLive, “The educators and families of this community have long known that their students were not on track for college and career readiness,” because it wasn’t until the 2011-12 school year that schools faced a reduction in funding.

When asked for comment on her statement, Berry replied in an email, "Undoubtedly, there are many opportunities for cost savings within our school districts, and we applaud the efforts of school boards and district leaders who find and take advantage of them while maintaining a high-quality educational program. Without seeing the specifics of the Highland Park budget, we cannot directly comment on their spending. It is highly doubtful that the $19,600 represents spending directly on the classroom, which is where we must focus our resources if our students are to succeed."

Michael Van Beek, director of education policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said Berry was ignoring the real problems by tying Highland Parks’ problems to a 2 percent to 3 percent reduction in state aid last year.

“Highland Parks’ problems started well before the Legislature cut state aid,” Van Beek said. “It wasn’t as if Highland Park didn’t have the resources to provide learning opportunities; they just failed to execute.”

Van Beek also said there is no direct link between more revenue and increased math and reading scores.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.