State School Board President Cites Funding 'Facts' That Ignore Billions in Spending

John Austin says board will rely on other information if disputed study is not 'most accurate'

The Michigan State Board of Education

A Nov. 12 memo by State Board of Education President John Austin cited a report issued by a liberal think tank to support the claim that Michigan schools are receiving less money. Austin now says he will "take a look at” the report he cited, which fails to account for billions of dollars that Michigan schools receive.

The analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities failed to include about $10 billion of the $19.6 billion from different revenue sources that comprise the annual public school budget. The report also ignores several billion dollars directly from state sources.

In an email, Austin said his memo was only a draft, not final, and hadn’t been approved by the board. He said he would examine the CBPP’s report and would not rely on it if it was found to not be the most accurate.

In the draft memo, Austin began, “Some facts may be agreed upon:”

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Then, in his second bullet-point Austin wrote, “In real-inflation dollars Michigan is spending 9% less in state dollars on public education than in 2008,” with a footnote citing the CPBB report as his authority for the claim.

Audrey Spalding, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said Austin had cited an incomplete study “that has been repeatedly debunked as a poor source of information for Michigan school spending information – because it ignores billions of dollars. The Citizens Research Council, in its presentation to the State Board, noted that inflation-adjusted state funding for schools has continued to increase over time.”

Austin said in his email that the draft memo had acknowledged there are contentious debates over school funding, and the board would rely on analysis from organizations “that critics would have a hard time disputing” like the Citizens Research Council and The Center for Michigan.

Referring to a very similar CBPP report issued in 2012, spokeswoman Shannon Spillane said their analysis focused only on the state formula funding because it was the dominant stream of state funding for local districts, and it also allowed for consistent comparisons across states. But the Michigan’s per-pupil “foundation allowance” referred to in their report does not include certain local and state funding streams, and does not include any federal dollars.

A 2013 Michigan Capitol Confidential commentary by Spalding exposed these and other serious flaws in the CBPP’s reports on school funding.


See also:

Education Funding Report Has Flawed Conclusion

Despite Claims, Michigan School Funding Higher Than a Decade Ago; Way Higher Than Decades Past

Michigan School Districts in Perpetual 'Funding Crisis'

A 'Crisis' That Never Ends

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