News Bite

Michigan Schools Never Had More To Spend; MSU Prof Calls State Dead Last In Funding

Carefully selected date ranges paint a false picture

Michigan State University professor David Arsen has tried for years to make a case why public schools needed more money, most recently with an op-ed in the Detroit Free Press.

“Well, since the federal No Child Left Behind Act launched the test-based accountability era in 2002, Michigan is 50th among the states — dead last — in per-pupil k-12 education revenue growth,” Arsen wrote.

Arsen is not saying the Michigan comes in last in the amount of taxpayer dollars it collects and delivers for public schools each year. He is instead measuring changes in rate of increase of funding between 2002 to 2015, based on a report he published in 2019.

That period includes a single-state recession Michigan experienced in the mid-2000s, and the nationwide Great Recession and crash of 2008-09. In both times, this state’s budget came under extreme pressure. But in 2021 Michigan public schools are getting record levels of taxpayer dollars.

The state’s finances were turning around in the early 2010s, and a review of Michigan public school revenues from that time forward paints a truer picture of their current status.

Combined state and federal funding for K-12 schools has increased from $12.7 billion in the 2011-12 fiscal year to $16.5 billion in 2020-21. After adjusting for inflation, K-12 schools are getting and spending additional $1.8 billion in funding in 2020-21. At the same time enrollment has fallen, meaning more dollars are now being spent to educate fewer children than 10 years ago.

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.