News Story

Hillary Has It Wrong: Low Income City Doesn't Mean Low Income Schools

Districts in poor areas get a lot more money

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently said in an interview that politicians don’t fund schools in poor areas.

Clinton said, “But I am also fully aware that there are a lot of substandard public schools. But part of the reason for that is that policymakers and local politicians will not fund schools in poor areas that take care of poor children to the level that they need to be.”

In Michigan, urban school districts often get considerably more federal money than other districts, largely due to special funding targeted at them. For example, the average school district here received $513 per pupil from federal sources, according to the Michigan Department of Education. Benton Harbor, however, received $2,014 per pupil from the feds in 2013-14, the most recent year data are available.

Other Michigan districts serving low-income students had similar federal funding advantages: Flint received $3,194 per student from the feds, Detroit received $3,251 per student and Saginaw received $1,487, compared to the $513 per student state average.

This extra funding allowed districts with a large proportion of low-income residents to have more money per pupil than other districts.

At the Benton Harbor school district, 48.4 percent of the population is living below the poverty level, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The state average is 16.8 percent. Benton Harbor Area Schools received $11,607 per pupil from all sources in the 2013-14 school year, including local, state and federal money. That was 27 percent more than the average for all public schools in Michigan, which was $9,121 per pupil.

In the Flint school district, 41.5 percent of residents live below the poverty level, and it received $13,127 per pupil in funding, which is 44 percent higher than the statewide public school average.

Detroit had 39.3 percent of its residents living below the poverty level, and its schools received $12,931 per pupil, or 42 percent higher than average.

In Saginaw, 37.3 percent of the population is below the poverty level and the schools received $10,180 per pupil, or 12 percent higher than the statewide average.