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Official’s School Funding Complaints Cite Study Missing Billions

MSU study ends before last four years of school aid increases

Regional public school official Barbara Richards cited a recent Michigan State University report to say that the amount Michigan spends on schools is inadequate. But the largest school districts in the region she serves have been getting above-inflation funding increases.

Richards, president of the board of the Clare-Gladwin Regional Education Service District, made her comments in a recent MLive story about a meeting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had with people in the Clare area.

MLive reported: “Barbara Richards, one of the educators in the exchange, said after the exchange that elected officials talk about fixing education every year. ‘We are still 50 out of 50 for support,’ she said, referencing a recent study that found Michigan ranks last among the 50 states in funding growth for public education.”

But a look at the two largest school districts in Richards’ intermediate school district shows that for each of the last seven years, both have received per-pupil funding increases beyond the inflation level.

For example, Gladwin Community Schools received $6,341 per pupil in state dollars (not including local or federal money) in 2017-18 compared to the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $5,821 per pupil in 2010-11. That’s $520 more for each pupil in real, inflation-adjusted terms.

At Clare Public Schools, state spending per pupil increased from the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $7,223 per pupil in 2010-11 to $7,667 in 2017-18, an increase of $444 per pupil.

The MSU study compared spending levels from 1995 to 2015 and therefore did not include increases in state revenue after 2015.

State spending on K-12 education has increased from $11.86 billion in 2014-15 to $13.04 billion in 2018-19. During that four-year period, the state invested an additional $2.9 billion in state dollars above the 2014-15 levels.

Richards didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.