News Story

Education Funding Study Has Flawed Conclusion

Nearly $10 billion not accounted for in analysis that says Michigan schools getting less money

A new study claims Michigan was among a number of states to have K-12 public school funding cut, but it didn't factor in about half of the state's overall funding for schools.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities study claimed Michigan's per-pupil state funding from 2007-08 to 2012-13 had been reduced by 8.8 percent. However, the study from the Washington, D.C., research and policy institute didn’t include all revenue in its analysis, leaving out local, federal and some state funding.

The study ignored about $10 billion of the total public school budget of $19.6 billion in 2007-08, said Michael Van Beek, the education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

If all funding is included, K-12 schools in Michigan are getting about the same amount per-pupil. The National Center for Education Statistics shows that in 2007-08 per student funding was $12,825. When adjusted for inflation, that increases to $13,399, which is $7 per student less than the $13,406 spent per student in Michigan in 2010-11. The NCES figures include all revenue — state, federal and local.

Left out of the study's analysis of school funding for 2007-08 was $1.4 billion Michigan got in state and federal money for special education; $81 million in state money for Intermediate School Districts; $310 million in state grants for at-risk youth; $232 million in federal money for school lunch programs and $6 billion in local revenue from property taxes.

"The study does not accurately reflect what has happened to overall funding for schools in Michigan over the past several years, and it would be inappropriate to use it to say much of anything about the amount of resources taxpayers have supplied school districts," Van Beek said.

Shannon Spillane, spokeswoman for The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said in an email that the report focused on just state funding "because state aid makes up a very large share of overall school district funding."

"Reductions in state funding leave local school districts with very few options: they must either scale back the educational services they provide; raise property taxes and other local revenues; or some combination of the two," Spillane said. "Our analysis specifically focuses on state formula funding both because it is the dominant stream of state funding for local school districts and because concentrating on formula funding allowed us to make consistent comparisons across states. The numbers in our paper were developed in consultation with an in-state budget expert, and are an accurate reflection of the trend in state formula funding in Michigan during the years covered by our analysis."

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.