Cuts to the Classroom

How Will Funding Reductions Affect Michigan Students?

Assuming an average class size of 25 students, the $292 per-pupil cut currently debated in the Legislature means that each classroom in the state will have to make do with $7,300 less funding. This leads to images of classrooms without enough textbooks, pencils or chalk. The reality, though, is that comparatively, schools spend very little on classroom supplies such as these.

The Center for Educational Progress and Information creates an annual Financial Information Database that shows in detail what Michigan schools do with their funds. In 2007-08, Michigan schools spent 1.5 percent of their budgets on instructional and testing supplies and textbooks. When applied to the proposed reduction, this makes up only $4.12 of the $292 per-pupil cut.

 Where would the rest of this cut have to come from? Here’s that cut broken down categorically, based on CEPI’s 2007-08 FID:

  • $92.51 pays teacher salaries.
  • $12.44 goes to administrator salaries.
  • $26.54 supports the salaries of custodians, bus drivers, food service workers, security guards, attendance monitors and the like.
  • $9.26 pays the salaries of employees such as social workers, psychiatrists, guidance counselors, coaches, test coordinators and IT specialists.
  • $2.07 covers overtime, sabbatical, and severance pay for all these employees.
  • $29.61 buys employee insurance coverage.
  • $36.21 goes to retirement benefits for these employees.
  • $1.08 purchases other employee benefits like paying them cash for not enrolling in the district’s health insurance plan.
  • $6.10 pays the energy bills.
  • $5.66 buys buses and transportation supplies.
  • $28.50 purchases services from doctors, lawyers, engineers, auditors, architects or anyone not directly employed by the district.
  • The rest is distributed among the hundreds of other expenses incurred by school districts.

When discussing the need to reduce spending in schools, depleting basic instructional supplies is not really the issue. The real issue is trying to reduce the cost of salaries and benefits for school employees, because it comprises the bulk of public education spending.