News Story

State Civil Rights Commission’s School Report Raises Questions Whether It’s Serious, Credible

Ideological spin easier to come by than facts and serious analysis

A state agency called the Michigan Civil Rights Commission recently published a document listing what it characterized as obstacles preventing children from minority families and neighborhoods from acquiring an adequate public school education.

One of the obstacles it cited includes “funding based on declining enrollment that leaves schools grossly underfunded.”

The statement implies that any reduction in a particular school district’s revenue due to having fewer students is unfair.

School funding in Michigan follows the student, which means every district in the state struggles to accommodate changes in annual pupil counts as communities grow or decline in population and families seek alternative options.

For example, for the 2019-20 school year, Flint Community Schools received $38.7 million in total state money. In the 2010-11 school year, it received $87.2 million.

According to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission’s language, this change suggests inequity.

What it really represents, though, is a school district whose enrollment has plummeted. Flint schools enrolled 10,850 students in 2010-11; by 2019-20, it enrolled just 3,775 students — a decline of 65%.

But on a per-pupil basis, the Flint district is getting more from the state, not less. Using inflation-adjusted 2020 dollars, Flint schools received the equivalent of $9,179 in state money for each student it enrolled in 2010-11. In 2019-20, it received $10,253 per pupil, a $1,077 real increase over the earlier school year.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.