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Schools With Many Poor Families Get More Per Kid In Michigan, Not Less

Activist calling for illegal teacher strikes still makes claim

A member of a group called Michigan Education Justice is trying to rally Michigan public school teachers and staff to walk off the job on Nov. 19, joining a similar teachers protest and walkout in the state of Indiana.

Ammerah Saidi called for the walkout in a message she sent to members of her email group. The post was then distributed on Facebook by school board officials and teachers.

There are 17 school districts in Indiana that are closing on Nov. 19 so staff can protest for higher pay at the state capitol, according to the Indianapolis Star.

The average Indiana teacher earned $50,614 in 2017-18, according to the National Education Association. The average salary for a Michigan teacher that year was $61,911.

“Michigan teachers are prevented from striking by state law, with heavy penalties,” the Facebook post read.

Saidi wrote in her post: “For those of you not following my instagram or the news coming out of Indiana, the teachers are walking out on November 19th and demanding their state government adequately fund public schools. Some superintendents are walking out as well. How many in our state would do the same? My question to the Michigan teachers AND SCHOOL ADMIN in this email group: What are we waiting for?"

According to the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, public employee strikes have been illegal in Michigan since 1947.

Saidi also posted, “My question to parents in this email group: What are you willing to support to guarantee every child in this state, not just the wealthy, get a quality, WHOLE-CHILD education (and not just technology or false promises)?”

Saidi mentioned Detroit’s public school district in her post. She is employed by Dearborn Public Schools. Her post implied that the school districts that educate students from poor communities are poorly funded. In Michigan, that is not accurate.

In Dearborn Public Schools, 75.78% of the students are considered “economically disadvantaged” in 2018-19, meaning their households receive some form of state or federal assistance. In Detroit’s public school district, 85.88% of the children are considered economically disadvantaged. Those percentages are well above the state average of 50.42%.

The average per-pupil spending at all Michigan school districts in 2017-18 was $10,190, coming from local, state and federal sources. Dearborn received $11,731 per pupil that year, and Detroit got $13,841 per pupil.

Hussein Beydoun, a member of Michigan Education Justice, responded to an email asking about the poor communities getting higher funding.

“Funding for education in most states is wholly inadequate, and Michigan is no exception,” Beydoun said in an email. “Equitable education funding has been an enduring issue ever since Brown v. Board, and our state government continues to abdicate its responsibility to ensure every student has access to a quality education. The issue is not that one district may be receiving more education funding than another – that is a simplistic view of what’s at stake.”

Beydoun continued: “The issue is that education equity cannot be achieved until underserved communities have access to quality health care, affordable housing, jobs that pay a living wage, and a justice system that doesn’t criminalize poverty. Once that is addressed, we can then move onto the issue of per-pupil funding.”

Editor's note: More comments from the Michigan Education Justice posting was added to this story.