Study: Michigan ranks last in school funding growth

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No other state tightened its education spending more than Michigan did over a 20-year period, according to a newly released study.

Michigan State University said Wednesday that the state ranked dead last in total education revenue growth between 1995 and 2015. After adjusting for inflation, school revenue was 82 percent of what it was in 1995, after the passage of an education-finance overhaul. No other state was “close to a decline of this magnitude,” the research says.

Michigan, which has seen a drop in enrollment, also ranked low in per-pupil revenue growth — placing 48th among 50 states. Per-student spending, though, is middle of the pack nationally.

Michigan State University Professor David Arsen says the fundamental cause of lower school spending is tax cuts.

“Michigan has tried to improve schools on the cheap by focusing on accountability and school choice policies. But to make those policies effective, they have to be alligned with adequate funding,” he said.

Lansing School District Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul says the lack of funding is something that’s impacted the district, and it’s affecting students and teachers as well.

“I think it’s clear, based on the studies we’ve seen, that money does matter,” she said. “In Lansing, we have 27 school facilities. And utility costs go up, and transportation costs go up, and food costs go up, and insurance costs go up.”

But despite the rise in costs, funding has gone down. The study shows between 1995 and 2015, money devoted to education dropped by more than $1.2 billion in Michigan. But after adjusting for inflation, the study shows, its closer to $1.6 billion.

Caamal Canul said the district recently had to get a bond to buy new classroom furniture. Something she says is a basic need, but essential for students and teachers.

“When we stop funding education, what we’re basically saying to our citizenry, the ones that are coming up, going to lead the world, we’re basically saying, ‘You know what, you don’t really matter that much. Right now, what matters is this, but you’re not the most important thing. But in my opinion, it’s the most important thing,” she said.

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