News Story

A Myth Too Politically Useful Not To Repeat: Schools In Poor Michigan Cities Get Less

Two politicians at Whitmer press conference keep it going

State Rep. Sheryl Kennedy is a former public school teacher and principal, and as a candidate for office has been endorsed by the state’s largest teachers union, the Michigan Education Association.

Kennedy appeared on stage with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at a recent press conference and when she spoke, repeated a common false assertion about public school funding.

Kennedy implied that schools serving poorer cities in Michigan get less funding than schools serving more affluent communities. This is generally not correct.

In making the erroneous assertion, Kennedy also gave the rationale for the existing state policy, which gives more funding to schools serving poorer communities:

“These stresses are exponential in districts that are already facing financial hardship, have higher levels of children living in poverty, have non-English-speaking children, or more children requiring special education services,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy would not have to look far to find an example of how this works. The Walled Lake Consolidated School District, where she was as a principal, serves the city of Walled Lake, where 8.4% of residents live below the federal poverty line. The school district received an extra $57-per pupil in state “at risk” funding for those residents, according to the state of Michigan. Total funding for the district, including local, state and federal dollars, was $11,583 per pupil in 2018-19.

State Sen. Winnie Brinks also appeared at the Aug. 19 Whitmer press conference. Brinks represents the city of Grand Rapids, where 21.2% of residents live below the poverty line. Because of this, the Grand Rapids school district received $591 extra per pupil in at-risk funding. And funding for Grand Rapids Public Schools was $12,844 per pupil in 2018-19, or $1,261 more per-pupil than the Walled Lake district.

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.