A news service for the people of Michigan from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Editorial

Another Michigan School Expert Misstates, Lowballs Taxpayer Contributions

Taxpayers keep giving more, public school establishment keeps denying it

Jack Smith, a professor of educational psychology at Michigan State University, recently claimed that inadequate school funding is one reason for poor academic performance by public schools in this state.

Smith wrote a guest commentary that appeared in Bridge magazine.

“Simple answers aren’t possible, but state financing for K-12 education is a major factor,” Smith wrote. “Revenue from the School Aid Fund fell from its high in the early 2000s and has remained roughly flat since 2010. Where Gov. Snyder has pointed to increases in education funding, those modest increases have at best kept up with inflation. In inflation-adjusted dollars, schools have fewer financial resources.”

ForTheRecord says: Official figures reported by the state Department of Education show the opposite of what Smith claims: Michigan public schools are getting more inflation-adjusted dollars from the state, not fewer.

The following school funding figures are all adjusted for inflation, stated in 2018 dollars to make the increases easy to spot.

Smith is correct in stating that per-pupil funding in regards to state-dollars only was at a peak in the early 2000s, when adjusted for inflation. In 2001-02, at the start of Michigan’s economic “lost decade,” public schools here received $9,136 per pupil from the state, a figure that does not include additional local or federal money that schools also get. This was the high-water mark for the century, as funding fell steadily for the rest of the decade, including during the 2008-09 financial crisis and Great Recession. In 2010-11, Michigan’s K-12 schools received $7,683 per pupil from the state.

Since then, per-pupil state funding has grown for five consecutive years and is projected to be $8,667 in 2017-18. The figure will increase again next year under a state budget the Legislature passed this week.

While Smith says that K-12 funding has remained roughly flat since 2010, it has actually grown by nearly $1,000 per pupil in 2018 dollars. That’s a 13 percent increase over that six-year period.