A Lost Decade for School Budgets?

A recent Gongwer story (subscription required) paints a dreary portrait of Michigan's education funding over the last decade, or what they term the "lost decade." The article states that since 2000, education "was one of the first budgets hit with cuts and freezes." When it comes to K-12 schools, a broader perspective reveals a different story. 

For starters, if you look at Michigan's School Aid Fund for the first few years of this decade, you'll see it grew from $10.0655 billion in 2000 to $12.3316 billion in 2003. That's a 14.7 percent increase in inflation-adjusted terms. For the entire decade, it's true that the School Aid Fund is about where it was in 2000, after adjusting for inflation. However, public school enrollment has dropped by 50,000, meaning schools are still getting more money per pupil at the end of this decade than they did when it began. 

Stay Engaged

Receive our weekly emails!

This really is only half the story, though. By focusing solely on state-based revenue, the article fails to mention the massive increases in funds secured through local taxes and from the federal government. Federal funds for schools over this decade have doubled, and in constant 2008 dollars, this is a 57% growth. Local funds have ballooned as well. In real terms, schools got 53% more local funds in 2008 than they did in 2000.

This all adds up to schools getting a 14 percent increase in real and total revenue over the course of this decade. Since enrollments have declined as families flee this state, a 14 percent increase equates to about $2,000 more per student. 

In financial terms, this decade was very good to Michigan public schools. Unfortunately, the return on this investment wasn't.