New report suggests Michigan's students are getting short changed in school funding

Posted at 7:22 PM, Jun 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-28 19:22:10-04

Is the state’s budget setting kids up for failure in Michigan schools? A new report obtained by 7 Action News suggests that is the case.

The Michigan Education Finance Study is a non-partisan study that was paid for by the state. Lawmakers called for it because they wanted to know what to do for the sake of kids. 

The researchers made disturbing findings. They found Michigan doesn’t come close to adequately funding education.

Taking a look at data from the 2013 and 2014 school year, they found the cost of educating the average kid in Michigan during that period was about $8,667.

That is far less than the state provided then or is providing now. 

Last year the state paid between $7,391 and $8,169. Next school year the state plans to pay schools between $7,511 and $8,229 per student. That means some schools are getting more than $1,000 less than is needed on average. 

No one is getting from the state what is needed in the average school.

"I think they are pretty accurate. We know we are struggling here, and we are doing the best we can with our limited resources,” said Michele Harmala, Wayne-Westland Schools Superintendent.

She says schools know they aren’t getting enough to do what the state wants. 

She showed us a chart that showed how what the district received last year less in per pupil state funding than the district did ten years ago, due to changes in how funding is determined.

The district, she says, has not had additional operational revenue in the last five years. One reason is the cost of retirement funding for employees increased at a tremendous rate.

She says this study could be a game changer.

“Michigan can become the top. It can. But we have to invest,” said Harmala.

“If you look at K-12 funding, we are up $1.4 billion from when I took office, so that is a significant investment,” said Governor. Rick Snyder (R-Michigan).

Snyder just signed a budget yesterday that increases spending on education, but still provides less than the study called for after looking at older budgets.

School leaders say in the meantime costs, such as retirement demands, are increasing.

"The study can be important input for the 21st century education commission I just created,” said the governor.

He said he is directing the commission to review the data in the study.

It doesn’t mean he approves increasing funding to the amount the study determined is needed. He says the study also looked at how outcomes can improve if certain programs grew. He said that could lead to more effective spending.