The False Claim That Won’t Die: School ‘Funding Cuts’ By The State

Ann Arbor and other school districts getting more from the state, not less

The news site MLive reported that some members of the Ann Arbor Parent-Teacher Organization have increased their volunteer fundraising activities for the local school district in recent years “due to cuts in state funding.”

The headline of the article makes the false claim that state funding for the Ann Arbor Public Schools district has dropped.

MLive reported, “Compared to 10 years ago, AAPS receives $430 less per pupil from the state, without taking into account the rate of inflation.”

ForTheRecord: By repeating the assertion that there have been cuts in state funding, MLive perpetuates a false claim that has been widely refuted since the last gubernatorial election campaign and even earlier. State of Michigan funding for K-12 education has risen every year, starting in 2011-12 and going into the current 2017-18 fiscal year.

In its discussion of school funding, MLive linked to a chart of the State Foundation Allowance. That refers to just one state revenue stream, money that is distributed to school districts for regular operations on a per-student basis.

But the foundation allowance represents only 80 percent of the state funding Ann Arbor Public Schools receives, and money from the state is just one of several major revenue sources that Michigan schools rely upon.

Looking at just state funding, the district received $5,672 per pupil in 2013-14, equivalent to $5,854 in 2017 dollars. That rose to $6,045 per pupil for the 2016-17 year, meaning that even after inflation, the Ann Arbor school district is getting more state dollars for each student.

The total amount of state dollars going to the Ann Arbor school district — not just the foundation allowance — rose from $92.7 million in 2013-14 to $103.5 million in 2016-17, according to the Michigan Department of Education. The 2013-14 figure would be $95.7 million in 2017 dollars, which means the district is getting more now from the state, even after inflation. It’s hard to see how this can be portrayed as a cut.

And again, state funding is just one of several revenue streams that flow into each school district’s general fund, which covers regular operational expenses. The other sources include federal money, local property tax millage receipts and more. Ann Arbor Public Schools collected $234.6 million in all revenues in 2009, which rose to $253.2 million in 2016 (not adjusted for inflation).

Meanwhile, the district’s annual contributions to the state pension system have increased from $12.1 million in 2009 to $30.0 million in 2016.

In effect, the parents are raising money to pay off teachers’ retirement benefits because the state consistently has failed to set aside enough money to pay for the benefits it promised.

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