News Story

Don’t Forget The Other Taxpayer Dollars Detroit Schools Collect: Debt Relief

Two legal entities, one created by a state bailout to repay old debt, the other to operate classrooms

Media voices and advocates for higher spending by Michigan’s public schools have been saying school districts that serve cities like Detroit are not as well-funded as ones serving more affluent communities.

But if money from all school revenue sources is included in the total, the public school district serving the city of Detroit is one of the best-funded in the state.

The rebranded Detroit Public Schools Community School District that emerged from a 2016 state bailout receives total revenue of $17,379 per pupil from local, state and federal sources.

By comparison, the state average was $16,322 per pupil. And it is not unusual to see public school districts that serve affluent areas like West Bloomfield get less. - It received $15,723 per pupil in the 2019-20 year.

But even these figures do not capture the full amount of taxpayer dollars going to support public schools in Detroit.

As part of a 2016 state bailout of an illiquid Detroit school system that could no longer cover its bills, the Detroit Public School district was split into two separate entities. One of these, the Detroit Public Schools Community District, operates the schools.

The other, the original Detroit Public Schools, now exists for the sole purpose of collecting local property tax revenue. It uses that money to pay off the unsustainable debt accrued by the school system over many years.

In three years from 2017-18 to 2019-20, the Detroit Public Schools district has collected $515.3 million to pay that accumulated debt, or about $171.7 million a year.

That means that taxpayers are paying around $3,400 per pupil to the old school district — not to educate children, but to cover spending made years, ago using borrowed money.

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.