News Story

Official Numbers Refute Claim Of Stagnant School Funding

Enrollment in Midland dropped but state funding went up

The president of a teachers union local became the latest school union official in Michigan to complain about school funding.

Mark Hackbarth, a teacher who is also the president of the Midland City Education Association, made his claim recently in the Midland Daily News, and his remarks don’t stand up to scrutiny.

Hackbarth, who earned $96,544 in the 2017-18 school year, recently submitted a letter to the editor. He wrote, “The actual reason why many school districts have budgetary issues is due to the fact that the state has not adequately funded schools over the past 12 years. For example, the Midland Public School’s foundation allowance is about the same as it was for the 2005-06 school year.”

Yet financial data from Midland Public Schools, where Hackbarth teaches, dispute his claims.

Midland Public Schools’ per-student foundation allowance was $8,297 in 2005-06 and increased to $8,531 in 2018-19. The foundation allowance for each district in the state, based on a complex formula, is money that follows students to whatever district they attend.

The foundation allowance is not the only money that flows into school district budgets each year. But proponents of higher spending on schools often cite just the foundation allowance when they argue that schools are not adequately funded.

When all state dollars are considered, funding for Midland schools increased significantly from 2005-06.

The district’s enrollment decreased by 19 percent from 2005-06 (9,533) to 2017-18 (7,687), yet its support in total state dollars (not including local and federal) increased from $48.6 million to $54.1 million.

When inflation is factored in, total state support increased from $6,332 per pupil to $7,040 per pupil over the 12-year period that Hackbarth says schools in Michigan have been underfunded.

By citing just the foundation allowance, Hackbarth ignored millions of dollars his district received last year that it didn’t get in 2005-06.

For example, the district received $512,711 for at-risk students and $114,030 for an early literacy program in 2017-18. Money for those purposes was not offered in 2005-06.

Also, the district received $6.7 million from the state in 2017-18 to help pay for its employees’ pension costs, something the state didn’t offer in 2005-06.

Hackbarth didn't respond to an email seeking comment.