News Story

Advocates of More Education Spending Ignoring Billions in Other Funds

State funding allowance only part of the money schools get for expenses

A number of advocates for more state funding for K-12 public education are making claims about cuts, but they're ignoring $2 billion in additional state education funding, which is as much as 30 percent of state funding for some school districts.

The $2 billion is not a part of the state foundation allowance.

Overall, 20 percent of state spending on education is spent via "categorical grants," which is money districts receive in addition to their foundation allowance. 

Outside of the foundation allowance, the state gives school districts money for special education, adult education, school lunch and then helps in offsetting the increasing cost of school employees' pensions.

When Gov. Rick Snyder said the state was putting more money into public educations, many school district officials and union leaders responded by talking about the much publicized per-pupil foundation allowance, which comes from state and local sources and is tied to student head counts.

"I think that he put out statements and numbers that were unbelievable," David Hecker, president of the American Federation of Teachers-Michigan said in the Detroit Free Press about the governor's state of the state speech. "I don't know how he could stand there and claim he increased funding $660 per student, when we know he slashed funding $470."

The AFT represents teachers in the Detroit Public Schools.

Only $243.79 million of the state funding for Detroit Public Schools was from the state foundation allowance. The state gave a total of $348.3 million to Detroit Public Schools.

"Critics aren't telling the whole story," said Audrey Spalding, director of education policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. "State taxpayers have contributed billions more."

But the drumbeat about inadequate funding continues.

Godfrey-Lee Public Schools Superintendent David Britten said Jan. 20 on his Twitter account: "Governor Snyder Deceived You On School Funding. Here is How." Britten then linked to a website that showed per-pupil foundation allowance figures.

Godfrey-Lee's per-student funding from local and state sources was $7,474 per student in 2010-11. It dropped to $7,004 per student in 2011-12 and 2012-13 and then increased to $7,064 in 2013-14, according to state aid financial status reports. That is the money the district uses to pay such things as teacher salaries and benefits, and classroom expenditures.

The Kent County school district received $12.35 million in state foundation allowance in 2013-14, which accounted for 85 percent of the school district's total state funding of $14.51 million.

Godfrey-Lee also received about $605,000 to help pay for its school employees' retirement costs, which was not part of the $12.35 million in state foundation allowance.

“That's fine as long as you differentiate between funds available for educating all students in all subject areas, which primarily come in the form of the shrinking foundation allowance, and those dedicated to things like fixing the MPSERs (retirement system) mess solely created by state policies and then dumped on schools to fix," Britten said in an email. "To cite it any other way is simply misinformation."

Total funding for K-12 in Michigan, adjusted for inflation, increased substantially from 1970-2000 and has remained steady since then.

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.