News Story

Misplaced Blame for Albion Schools Problems

District spends much more than state average, surrounding schools

This spring, Albion Public Schools decided to close its high school because of a $1.1 million budget deficit and send its students to Marshall Public Schools.

The state's largest teachers' union, the Michigan Education Association, and some Albion parents have tried to put the blame on budget cuts.

But that argument is hard to support, according to data from the Michigan Department of Education.

Consider in 2011-12, Albion Public Schools spent $12,447 per student, which includes local, state and federal general fund dollars. By comparison, the state spending average was $9,531. And Albion spent 30 percent more in 2011-12 than it did in 2000 when the district spent $9,541 per student when factoring in inflation.

In 2011-12, Albion spent $3,626 more per student than did Marshall Public Schools, which spent $8,821 per student and is not reporting a budget deficit.

"What more do you want?" said Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. "I don't see how you can look at that and say this is solely an issue of funding because they are spending more."

Yet, a recurring theme has been Albion needs more money.

The MEA blamed Gov. Rick Snyder's slight budget cuts in 2011-12 on the school's financial troubles. The state has increased money to schools overall during his term.

At a public forum on school funding in Albion attended by John Austin, president of the state board of education, Casandra Ulbrich, vice president of the state board, and State Rep. Kate Segal, D-Battle Creek, parents voiced their concern that Albion was being hurt by budget cuts.

In an email, Austin said he attended the meeting so he could learn more about Albion's situation.

Albion's problem has been a steady reduction in enrollment for two decades.

Albion had 2,305 students in 1992. In 2011-12, that number dropped to 808. The district reported a reduction in enrollment for 20 of those 21 years.

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.