Michigan School Funding Problems Solved!

More evidence that “underfunding” is a myth

(Editor's note: This article has been modified to correct an error that appeared in the original version. The version below correctly states that in 2007, Michigan's state and local revenue for public schools per $1,000 of personal income ranked third in the nation, behind Wyoming and Vermont.)

Incessant poor-mouthing is a staple of the public school establishment's perennial effort to extract more revenue from taxpayers. However, as described in a previous post, total state funding for Michigan public schools has actually increased by 14 percent this decade in real, inflation-adjusted terms. When combined with a 50,000-student decline in school enrollment, it adds up to our schools spending $2,000 more per pupil in 2008 than at the start of the decade.

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From the AnnArbor.com news site comes additional evidence that our schools very well funded indeed:

Nine southeast Michigan school districts paid $25,000 each to a Detroit-area public relations firm to be 'named,' a top school district. That firm, in turn, bought airtime on a Detroit-area television station to broadcast a feature on the state's best schools. A website — bestschoolsinmichigan.com — also features the nine schools.

More indications of how richly this state endows its public school establishment are found in employee compensation figures and comparisons:

  • On average, teachers contribute 4 percent to the cost of family health insurance premiums, while the state average is 22 percent.
  • Teacher salaries in Michigan averaged $4,079 above the national average (2006-2007 figures); that's the nation's 11th highest, while the state's per-capita personal income has fallen to 37th place and is currently $5,259 below the national average (2008 figures).
  • Only Vermont and Wyoming spend a larger portion of its local and state tax revenue on public schools than Michigan.

Beyond suggesting the magnitudes of money sloshing around in this system, the "best schools" pay-to-play scheme illustrates shortcomings in the information we have available on school performance. The education establishment produces an abundance of data in the form of test scores, assessments, etc. — but data is not necessarily useful information. Parents are thus stuck choosing schools based on slick slogans.