The State of Student Achievement and School Funding in Michigan

A macro view of student performance and education spending in Michigan over the last decade suggests a weak relationship between these two variables. Education Week’s 2016 analysis of achievement trends on the National Assessment of Educational Progress — referred to as “the nation’s report card” — found only one state that lowered its overall math and reading proficiency rates between 2003 and 2015: Michigan. The retrograde movement landed the Great Lakes State at 43rd in K-12 achievement.[21] These results are not entirely explained by poverty or a few bad school systems: Michigan’s middle- and upper-income students made less progress from 2003 to 2015 in reading and math on the NAEP tests than their less-affluent peers, on average.[22]

Over that same period, despite a severe economic recession, the most current data available (2012-13) show Michigan’s per-pupil spending grew by 11 percent in real terms. Adjusted for regional cost differences, Michigan spent $8,646 per pupil in 2002-03. A full decade later, according to Education Week, the state’s average per-pupil expenditures reached $12,188.[23]

From a large-scale perspective, the data suggest that there isn’t much of a relationship between how much taxpayers dedicate to public schools on a per-pupil basis and how well students perform on standardized tests. It still could be the case, though, that at an individual building level, more resources could help improve student achievement. The regression analysis used for this study analyzes the spending and achievement of individual public schools throughout Michigan over a period of seven years.