Mackinac Center Weighs in on State’s Education Adequacy Study

State media covers school funding study

The state has released its long-awaited, twice-delayed education funding adequacy study, which claimed the state’s average school district operating expenditure of $12,000 per pupil is not enough.

Augenblick, Palaich & Associates, the Denver-based firm paid $399,000 to produce the report, also suggested increasing education funding in the District of Columbia — which spends over $29,000 a year per student — so its findings about Michigan were not surprising. Ben DeGrow, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, spoke with the Detroit News this week to offer his perspective on the state-commissioned study:

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“Even given the information presented in this report, it doesn’t lead us to the conclusion that money alone is going to improve Michigan’s weak educational performance,” said Mackinac Center Director of Education Policy Ben DeGrow.

DeGrow pointed to a study he co-authored earlier this year that found no relationship between increased spending and student performance. What seemingly matters more than how much is spent is how education funds are used. Though the state’s study found a number of districts that spend less are seeing greater student achievement, it failed to explain how they are achieving such success, DeGrow told Gongwer News Service.

He also argued that the formula the study used ignores the districts that are doing more with less. “Of the 54 districts they’re looking at, they also point out that 19 of those districts spend an average of 10 percent less than that $8,667,” he said. “What they don’t answer is how some districts are able to get the higher quality results with less money.”

The study also failed to explain how it determined a $1,000 increase in per-student spending would lead to a one percent increase in math and reading proficiency. In speaking with the Detroit Free Press, DeGrow explained it seems like a high sum to pay for comparatively small results, and that lawmakers should not accept the study as a carte blanche justification to spend more.

DeGrow said Michigan residents shouldn't jump to the conclusion that increased spending equals better outcomes. He said he found the opposite in a study he released earlier this year.

Whether lawmakers in Michigan do anything about the findings remains to be seen. The 2015 state law that required the study doesn't require the state to take action on its findings.

Read the full Detroit News article here.

Read the full Gongwer article here.

Read the full Detroit Free Press article here.

Listen to Michigan Radio’s report here.

Read the Mackinac Center press release on the adequacy study here.


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