Michigan Per-Pupil Revenues Hit All-Time High in 2011; $13,400 per Student

Districts in deficit spent 22 percent more on average compared to the rest of the state

For Immediate Release
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Contact: Michael Van Beek
Director of Education Policy
Michael Jahr
Vice President for Communications

MIDLAND — New data show that Michigan’s public schools received more revenue per pupil in 2011 than ever before, according to analysis conducted by Michael Van Beek, director of education policy at the Mackinac Center. Taxpayers supplied a total of $19.5 billion — $13,405 per pupil — to schools through federal, state and local revenues. An updated online database maintained by the Mackinac Center contains this district-level fiscal data.

“This highlights an important point: When districts have fiscal problems, it’s almost always a spending problem, not a revenue problem,” said Van Beek.

Listed below are both the highest and lowest spending districts with more than 1,000 pupils. Seven of the top highest spending districts had budget deficits in 2011.

Highest- and Lowest-Spending Districts

The 41 school districts in deficit in 2011 spent $14,142 per pupil on average for operating expenses, about 22 percent more than the state average.

About 80 percent of what Michigan public schools spent in 2011 went to pay for the salaries and benefits of school employees. In per-pupil terms, schools spent less on employee salaries in 2011 than the prior year, but more on employee benefits — these were up about 2 percent overall. Schools devoted just over $3,000 per pupil — 26 percent of operating spending — for employee benefits in 2011. However, schools spent less per pupil in salaries and benefits for school custodians, bus drivers, food service workers and business office employees.

These new data also show that of all the money public schools spent in 2011, 63 percent went to instruction and instructional support, an average of about $7,274 per pupil, down less than 1 percent from 2010. Per-pupil spending on district and school administration was down about 2 percent to $866. Spending on operations and maintenance decreased the most compared to other spending categories, dropping over 4 percent in per-pupil terms to $1,083.

Despite increased revenues, school districts and public charter schools did spend less per pupil on average in 2011 than in the previous year. Day-to-day operating expenditures were down about 1 percent to $11,561 per pupil. Another $1.2 billion — $840 per pupil — was spent on school construction and repair.