News Story

Public Radio Claims State Took School Money, But Funding Is Higher

K-12 schools getting more money to educate fewer kids

The public broadcasting news site Michigan Radio reports that since 2010, the state of Michigan has taken $4.5 billion away from K-12 education and given it to higher education.

The story paints an incomplete picture because it fails to mention that the amount of state money (not including local or federal funds) given to K-12 schools increased over the past eight years, despite claims of a $4.5 billion diversion.

State funding for K-12 public schools increased from $10.7 billion in 2009-10 to $13.0 billion appropriated for the 2018-19 fiscal year. After adjusting for inflation, that comes to $800 million more for the coming school year when compared to 10 years ago. The increase comes even though Michigan public schools are serving fewer students, with statewide pupil counts down about 100,000 students, from 1.62 million in 2010-11 to 1.52 million in 2017-18.

The story leaves out something very important: During the time the state made a $4.5 billion shift to universities, it also appropriated $117 billion to K-12 schools.

The dollars in question are tax revenues that are earmarked for the state School Aid Fund. Those revenues have grown as the state’s economy has improved. Under the state constitution, School Aid Fund dollars may be used “exclusively for aid to school districts, higher education, and school employees’ retirement systems.” School Aid Fund revenues come from the sales tax, lottery, individual income tax, property taxes, casino taxes and others.

The Michigan Radio states that the 2011-12 state budget shifted $400 million in school aid money to universities and reduced per-pupil K-12 funding by $470 per pupil.

Once again, the story is not complete, because it does not explain that, overall, state dollars going to K-12 schools actually increased from $10.8 billion in 2010-11 to $11.1 billion in 2011-12.

And state funding for K-12 education has increased with every fiscal year, starting in 2011-12.

“As with many of our stories, this web post is basically a rewrite of one of our short, headline newscast stories,” said Vincent Duffy, news director of Michigan Radio. “Because of time limits, those stories tend to be very focused, and overall school funding was not part of the focus of this spot. We certainly don’t shy away from covering stories about increases in school budgets. In fact, one of the related stories attached to this post does just that. We believe the entirety of our coverage of school budgets provides balance.”

Underneath the story, with the headline “related content,” Michigan Radio posted a June 3 story, two paragraphs long, which reported that every school district will get a $70-to-$140 per student increase in the new K-12 budget.