A report released this morning by the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) concludes that Michigan’s K-12 per-pupil funding for the 2014-2015 school year is down 9.5 percent compared to pre-recession rates. A second report, conducted by the Citizens Research Council (CRC) and also released today, indicated that state funding for education has increased since 2010, but that the money has only gone toward retirement costs, rather than directly impacting students. Governor Rick Snyder’s administration defended these claims about education funding, which have been a hot button topic in the race between the Republican incumbent and Democratic challenger Mark Schauer.
The study’s data, based on a review of the state’s 2015 budget, indicates that Michigan’s per-pupil foundation grant has decreased by $615 per student when compared to the same figure in 2008 after adjustment for inflation. This number only refers to state funding, and does not include additional local funding that some districts receive from their communities.
While the CBPP report does acknowledge that per-pupil funding is scheduled to increase by $50 per student based on the 2015 budget, it recommends that funding be restored to pre-recession levels. The consequences of not returning funding to its pre-recession levels, according to the report, include forcing local school districts to cut services just to make ends meet, slowing Michigan’s overall economic recovery, and failing to provide the highest quality of education for students.
The CRC study asserts that school funding has actually increased by nearly $1,000 per student since 2011, but all of the additional money has been earmarked for non-classroom uses, such as retirement and legacy costs. This means that even though overall funding is up significantly, none of that money is actually getting into the classroom. The discrepancy between this report and the CBPP report is due to the fact that the CBPP report focused exclusively on the foundation grant, while the CRC took a broader look at the state’s funding mechanisms. This report also indicates that tax reforms in 2012 and a legislative decision to use some School Aid Fund money to fund higher education have prevented K-12 funding from reaching an optimal level. The study concludes that a combination of factors, such as higher retirement costs and declining enrollment statewide, are creating financial challenges for local school districts in spite of increased funding, and that state funding increases may be inadequate to optimally meet students’ needs.
David Murray, press secretary for Governor Rick Snyder, responded to both reports, first calling the CBPP report “incomplete and inaccurate,” and explaining that school funding is currently at $7,798 per pupil, which is the highest level in over 10 years. He defended Snyder’s record against the CRC report by stating that although retirement costs are cutting significantly into school funding, the situation would have been even worse had Snyder not intervened by setting aside a percentage of state funding for those expenses.