News Story

New York Times Discounts Michigan’s Consistent Increase In School Funding

Newspaper characterizes $900 million increase above inflation as ‘hollowed out’ funding

The New York Times repeated questionable claims about Michigan school funding in a June 25 feature about Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The New York Times wrote, “The state has also gradually hollowed out its public schools. For decades, Michigan’s education funding rose more slowly than that of any other state in the country; adjusted for inflation, per-pupil spending, in fact, declined by 22 percent from 2002 to 2015.”

State dollars dedicated to Michigan K-12 schools (not including local or federal money) have increased for 10 consecutive years, according to the Senate Fiscal Agency. State school funding for the 2009-10 year was the equivalent of $12.5 billion in 2019 dollars. In 2019-20, K-12 funding was $13.4 billion, an increase of $900 million above inflation over those 10 years.

It is difficult to see how that actual record could be interpreted as supporting a narrative of “hollowed out” public schools.

The newspaper also attempted to link a lawsuit filed by a liberal group on behalf of some Detroit public school students to a claim of a “long history of underfunding.”

The Times wrote, “This long history of underfunding recently culminated in a crisis, too, if a less dramatic one than Flint’s: In 2016, a group of seven students in Detroit’s public schools sued the state, arguing that it had deprived them of their constitutional right to literacy.”

But state records show that funding for Detroit public schools has consistently been much higher than the state average for more than 10 years.

For example, according to the Michigan Department of Education, Detroit public schools received $12,750 per pupil (local, state and federal funding) in 2009-10. The state average that year was $8,919.

In 2018-19 (the most recent data available), Detroit’s public school district received $14,744 per pupil, well above the state average of $10,487.