How School Funding Works in Michigan

Discussions about school funding can create more confusion than clarity. Each state has its own intricacies and peculiarities. Michigan is no exception. Funding flows down from different sources, often based on different formulas and intended for different purposes. There’s no one unified system that controls school funding — rather, schools rely on a number of systems layered on top of each to supply them with resources.

This publication presents a brief overview of some of the key components of Michigan’s school funding system, if it can be called that. The goal is to provide a general understanding of how tax dollars reach schools and what they are intended for.

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Did You Know?

The state also sends out more than 50 different categorical grants that target different student and district characteristics, local debt obligations, specific state programs and several competitive grants.

The state plays only a small role in financing school buildings and amenities, but makes its credit rating and some extra funds available for local districts to borrow billions to finance school construction.

Nearly 10 percent of Michigan public school revenue comes from federal tax dollars, most of which goes to support districts with large low-income populations and to help pay for special education services.

Michigan: Current Expenditures Per FTE Student, 2006-2016 (in 2016 dollars)

Michigan’s 56 intermediate school districts spend nearly 1 in 10 of the state’s K-12 operating dollars, a rate significantly higher than a decade earlier.

Most of Michigan’s 540 conventional school districts and 300 charter schools receive the same per-pupil amount, but that foundation allowance is supplemented by various other funding sources.