Michigan schools once again are said to be facing a "funding crisis," and the most suggested solution boils down to rounding up more revenue to feed them. The only problem with this simplistic solution is: It. Won't. Work. And here's why: 

In a 2005 Michigan School Business Officials press release about the fiscal outlook for the coming year, Executive Director Tom White described how schools have slimmed down their budgets: "Schools have moved past the fat and are down to the bone." Also in the statement: 79 percent of districts said they expected to spend down their fund balance, 63 percent predicted class sizes would increase and 65 percent said they'd cut spending on supplies and services. 

In 2005-06, the basic foundation allowance increased $175 per pupil. 

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The following year's MSBO survey, nicknamed "Survey of Pain," found more of the same. Seventy-five percent of districts said they planned to reduce their fund balance, 58 percent expected class sizes to grow and 67 percent were ready to cut supplies and services. Here are some direct quotes from anonymous school officials contained in the statement: 

  • "Not quite sure how we are going to survive. Really do not have anything left to reduce other than really increasing class size." 
  • "We have to figure it out year by year. We can't do much for long range planning."
  • "If the current trend continues, our school will have spent its fund balance within three years and be closing our doors!"

In 2006-07, the basic foundation allowance increased $233 per pupil.

If history is any lesson, it seems like we're in a no-win situation. If we reduce revenue for public schools, they'll cut programs, increase class sizes, lay off employees and spend their fund balances. If we increase revenues, they'll cut programs, increase class sizes, lay off employees and spend their fund balances. 

This story is stale. Let's create a new one where schools have enough revenue not because taxpayers up the ante every year, but because schools responsibly control their costs and become more efficient.


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