Under Michigan law, a conventionally constituted local school district and a charter school are both considered "school districts,"[20] even though the "school district" in the second case involves just a single public school. Because the two types of districts are financed and governed in different ways, we will distinguish between the two by calling the first a "conventional local school district" or a "conventional school district" and calling the second a "charter school." (In state law, charter schools are referred to as "public school academies,"[21] but we use "charter schools" in this book, believing that term to be more widely understood).

Throughout the book, we will also discuss education spending in "fiscal 2007" or a variety of other fiscal years. These fiscal years will consistently refer to the Michigan public school system’s fiscal years, which start on July 1 of one calendar year and end on June 30 of the next calendar year,[22] with the fiscal years named after the second of the two calendar years. Hence, "fiscal 2007" will refer to the Michigan school fiscal year that begins on July 1, 2006, and ends on June 30, 2007.[vii]

[vii] Note that the Michigan school system’s fiscal years are not the same as those for Michigan government and the U.S. government, both of which begin on Oct. 1 and end on Sept. 30.