school funding in michigan

Our Governor recently announced that, unless the Michigan legislature could find the money elsewhere, she was going to order a $125 per-student cut in state aid to schools and a 6% reduction in state payments to doctors and hospitals that treat Medicaid patients. I hope it’s not the case, but, going by what’s been reported in the “Free Press,” it doesn’t sound as though the amount of $125 is an average. In other words, it sounds as though the cuts are going to be administered across the board, and every student, regardless of whether they’re in a well-funded school system, like Bloomfield Hills, or a poorly funded school system, like Ypsilanti, are going to be debited the same amount. If that’s the case, it’s completely fucked up.

In her defense, it sounds like Granholm is working to find revenue elsewhere. The “no new taxes” Senate Republicans, however, are standing in her way. And, as you might expect, she’s pissed.

Does anyone know where I might find a chart that shows how much is spent per student in each Michigan school district? I’ve been searching unsuccessfully for an hour and I’m left with the impression that there’s a deliberate effort to keep that information under wraps.

update: OK, I found a resource. There’s a group called Citizens for Equity that’s on the case. Here’s a clip from an undated article about their work posted to the Absolute Michigan site:

The Ann Arbor News has an excellent article that looks at how the current school funding crisis might pit school districts against one another as schools on the lower end of the funding spectrum (many at the state’s minimum foundation grant of $7,085 per student) say it’s unfair that some districts receive $11,000 and $12,000 per student. Citizens for Equity is composed of about 50 lower-funded districts who are lobbying for funding changes. Rick Terres of Howell Public Schools says “If there are extra dollars available, I believe the lower-funded districts need further consideration at the first wave.”

Rep. Kevin Elsenheimer, R-Bellaire, (who has introduced a resolution that would put a constitutional amendment on the ballot asking to close the equity gap by 2018) took offense at a recent call by Oakland County Executive Brooks Patterson for Chinese language classes to be added to all Oakland County schools, saying “Why is it that schools in some part of the state are adding things like Mandarin Chinese, when schools in rural parts of the state are having to cut, cut, cut, and are worried about even being able to offer athletics?”

According to Citizens for Equity, while the current base state funding in Michigan is $7,085 per pupil, some school districts receive significantly more. According to their figures, Ann Arbor, for instance, receives an additional $42.5 million. And, Farmington, Southfield and Birmingham are in the same ballpark. 401 Michigan school districts, however, don’t take in a penny more in additional funding. If you do the math, that means that Ann Arbor spends an additional $2,530 per pupil, over the base. Ypsilanti, however, only spends an additional $724 per student. (Ypsi receives about $3 million in additional funding, to Ann Arbor’s $42.5 million.)

So, with this as background, does it sound fair that the state is threatening to de-fund all of our kids to the tune of $125 each, regardless of their current funding? (Can I hear a, “Oh, HELLLL No!”?) Look, I’m not suggesting that all kids across the state all receive the exact same amount of funding. Areas with higher tax revenues should, I think, be able to channel some of that back into their public school system, but, at the same time, does the discrepancy need to be so large? And, certainly, when we’re talking about making cuts like we are, shouldn’t they be weighted toward the schools that are in the top 10% relative to current per pupil funding?

[I was going to advocate at this point that we start looking at European educational models, but given the news out of Denmark today, I thought it best to hold off.]

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  1. mark
    Posted May 2, 2007 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

    It’s slightly NSFW, and slightly off-topic, but here’s the video of the incident in Denmark. It had me thinking poorly of their culture, until I thought about it in the context of what just happened at Virginia Tech. Having kids stripping isn’t nearly as bad as having them shoot one another.

  2. murph
    Posted May 3, 2007 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Oh my god!* Underwear in our schools?! Mark, how could you suggest such a thing? Ugh. Not in this country, thanks – I’ll stick with good old fashioned American shame, isolation, and self- and other-loathing.

    * No relation intended to the Ypsilanti National Day of Prayer

  3. brian r
    Posted May 3, 2007 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Vermont revised the way they fund education in 1997 with the adoption of Act 60.

    Among other things, Act 60 increased to the gas tax to help fund education, and it implemented an education tax that was basically a state-wide property tax that pooled the revenue to be redistrubed equally. Per pupil spending there increased and become more equal.

    Provisions in Act 60 allowed towns to tax themselves more and increase per pupil spending if they chose to do so. The tax rate became linear meaning that if Bloomfield Hills was spending $14,000 per pupil, Ypsilanti could chose to spend that much and have the same education tax rate as Bloomfield Hills.

    It’s not utopia, but it sounds pretty decent.

  4. degutails
    Posted May 3, 2007 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    i work with the ann arbor schools in the special ed process, and we have a lot of kids in the private school where i teach who have come from ann arbor public, and i hear things, many of them deeply sketchy. which is not to say that ann arbor isn’t a good district, but rather to say that, knowing the money that’s available there and looking at what they do with it, i wonder why they’re not doing a better job on many fronts.

    on the other hand, ypsi is constantly strapped for money, and both of my boys attend public school here – the oldest is in sixth grade. i couldn’t be happier with the education they’re currently getting, which makes me so sad, when you consider how much this district is doing with so little money. imagine what we could do with funding like ann arbor’s…


  5. egpenet
    Posted May 3, 2007 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    A taching degree … or a Masters in Ed. … and, most certainly, a Ed. PhD. … does not guarantee that the recipient has the foggiest idea about how to manage a classroom, much less an entire system. Same holds true for Business degrees and Medical degrees.

    When Ford, GM, Chrysler … Pfizer, U.M. hospital, V, etc. … EMU, … state school districts … when all of these organizations fired their experienced management and hired the younger, inexperienced and less prepared and truly vocationally talented managers … American business, education and even high-tech (like Pfizer) got into great trouble … no planning, poor systems, skyrocketing legacy costs, less money going into the classrooms and educational materials. Add those institutional problems to the social and cultural issues of the last thirty years and you have what we have today in Michigan and Ypsilanti … and nowhere to go, but to throw more money at the problem.

    Iacocca’s new book outlines a few of these hot issues for American business … but the issue runs through our entire society.

    I give you our President as a prime example of a failed family, a failed educational system, a failed business management structure, and an electorate who votes based on beliefs rather than facts. Yikes!

  6. egpenet
    Posted May 3, 2007 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    “V” above is for Veterans’ Administration … ie. Walter Reed.

  7. edweird
    Posted May 3, 2007 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    If anyone wants to take a closer look at Vermont’s law you can find the entire text here:

    I haven’t had the time to read it myself, having just found before having to run out again. I may have more to say later.

  8. Kate
    Posted May 3, 2007 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    The original marketing for Proposal A was that it would even the playing field, because every school would get the same amount per student. But, the richer communities had a hissy fit and that part of it quickly went by the wayside. Seems to me, if there has to be a cutback it should hit the richer communities first and hardest. THEY have the wherewithal to make up the difference. Others don’t.

  9. Cousins Vinyl
    Posted May 4, 2007 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Mark, I’m really glad you chose to address this issue as I find it to be a huge equity problem, something that is the single biggest contributer to our class system that exists in the US.

    If you are born in a richer district, you have a much greater chance of advancing at a high level through the school system, attending a better college, and thus being able to land a higher paying job. And then buy a house in a richer district, have your kids go to school there, and the cycle continues. Not to mention standardized tests which are proven to not only be biased in favor of wealthy, white kids, but also has proven NOT to be good predictor of college success, despite so many schools relying on it. And then the No Child Left Behind Act is a whole ‘nother discussion.

    There are a number of different solutions, but the fact is that large corporations who play a huge factor in controling schools don’t want to change, nor do the rich districts who don’t want to lose any of their money.

    The structure of how tax money is used to be funded could also be looked at, with more help coming from federal funding. I’d have to look at my notes, but it’s something around 8-10%, while state is around 40 and local is 40. If you look at federal funding spent on, say, the military vs. schools it is sickening.

    Another solution, as mentioned from previous comments, is to make the funding linear, or extend districts on a triangle across counties that would put different areas into the same district and bus poorer kids into another district.

    It is beyond sad that being born wealthy or poor will alter your chances of success in society. The basis of schools was supposed to be built on a merit system, where all studens had an equal chance. We all know that this theory of meritocracy is a myth.

    Thanks Mark for addressing this.

  10. egpenet
    Posted May 4, 2007 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    The system is too complicated, unpredictable and very unfair to parents, students and staff … when ultimately controlled by the state. If we are to have state and national standards … then funding, taching and management should be top down. If we want total local control … then funding, teaching and management should be strictly local.

    The many social and demographic changes that have affected our society have resulted in a dramatic change, where teachers who once sacrified for vocational reasons to teach our children have become part of the legacy cost burden issue that has hit us in the public sector (along with other city/state employees) and along with their retired union brothers and sisters from industry.

    The taxpayers, in fact, are paying in … and what is happening is that our city’s and townships and the state have become sinkholes, wheree these steadily rising taxes simply disappear. It’s that great “suckin’ sound” and it’s infuriating.

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