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Study: Per-Pupil Funding, Class Size Not Predictor of Schools Families Choose

Schools that pay teachers more but have lower per-pupil spending often favored choices for students, parents

When given the opportunity, Michigan families choose schools where teachers were paid a little more but per-pupil spending was lower, according to a new Schools of Choice study.

On average, students tended to use Michigan's Schools of Choice program to attend districts that had slightly higher student-to-teacher ratios, spent less per pupil and paid teachers more, according to the study done by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. During the 2011-12 school year, students used schools of choice to attend districts that paid teachers about $1,000 more in salary. 

"The key to understanding this apparent paradox is that students are opting for districts with slightly larger class sizes," said Audrey Spalding, director of education policy at the Mackinac Center and the author of the study. "What this suggests is that students are leaving for districts that spend money on things that matter, while minimizing waste."

One example occurred in Flint, which had a pupil-to-teacher ratio of 13.8, spent $17,630 per pupil, and paid its teachers an average of $61,899. However, Flint saw 1,231 students leave using schools of choice during the 2012-13 school year. Of those, 412 went to the Kearsley Community Schools district, and 337 went to Carman-Ainsworth Community Schools.

In comparison to Flint, Kearsley had a pupil-to-teacher ratio of 21, spent $9,566 per student and paid its teachers an average of $73,020. Carman-Ainsworth had a pupil-to-teacher ratio of 17.8, spent $16,932 per student, and paid its teachers an average of $69,489.

Pupil-to-teacher ratios used in the study are from the 2010-11 school year and reported by the National Center for Education Statistics. Expenditure per-pupil information is for the 2011-12 school year and is from the Center for Educational Performance and Information. Average teacher salary is from Michigan's 2011-12 Bulletin 2014.


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