Now that the Michigan Legislature finally passed some school reform bills in its attempt to get a potential one-time payment of $400 million from the federal government, let's put this "Race to the Top" program into perspective.
Four hundred million dollars seems like a nice chunk of change; that is, until you consider how much Michigan spends on its public schools. In 2007-08, Michigan spent almost $19 billion on public education, making the potential "Race to the Top" money a mere 2 percent of the state's total education bill.
If allowed, the state could spend all but about $110 million just on getting the more than 40 schools with operating deficits above water.
The national total for "Race to the Top" - $4.35 billion - is dwarfed by the $100 billion handed out by the Obama Administration to fund the public education status quo. Funds slated for schools as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act shielded schools from experiencing the realities that come with economic recessions - such as decreased tax revenue.
Schools in Michigan used the equivalent of $370 per pupil through this funding in July and another $285 per pupil in October to lower this year's state aid reduction. More funding for preserving the public school system is coming from Washington as just last week the House created a $23 billion "education jobs fund."
If one were keeping score, that'd be $123 billion for more of the same in public schools and $4.35 billion for some change.