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K-12 Education

School Finance Research Collaborative announces findings of comprehensive school funding study

Michigan businesses, education experts partner to provide historic analysis of school funding data, tools for school funding reform

Top business and education experts today announced the results from a comprehensive statewide study examining school funding in Michigan – an analysis that clearly demonstrates the need to reform Michigan’s school funding system. The School Finance Research Collaborative brought together the nation’s two leading school funding research firms to develop the report, which provides the most complete data available on school funding and gives policymakers the building blocks to reform the school funding system in Michigan.

“The diverse group of leaders who make up the School Finance Research Collaborative all agree it’s time to change the way Michigan’s schools are funded, and we’re proud to release Michigan’s first comprehensive school adequacy study that demonstrates the costs of educating a child,” said Dr. Wanda Cook-Robinson, superintendent of Oakland Schools. “Now it’s time for action to reform Michigan’s broken school funding system.”

“Nearly 300 Michigan educators lent their expertise to this project, and we were fortunate to partner with the top education consulting firms in the nation to provide comprehensive guidance for Michigan’s policymakers,” said Dr. Randy Liepa, superintendent of Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency. “This new report provides the best available look at school funding in our state, and it should be used by policymakers to provide building blocks for reform, from Southeast Michigan to the Western Upper Peninsula.”

Launched in 2016, the Collaborative brought together business leaders, education experts, leaders from traditional public and charter schools throughout Michigan and top consultants in the education field. Working together, the collaborative oversaw the completion of a new, comprehensive school adequacy study that provides a new framework for funding Michigan’s schools to prepare all students for success in the classroom and beyond.

The full Collaborative report, available at, includes the following key findings:

  • The base per-pupil cost to educate a regular education K-12 student in Michigan is $9,590, which does not include transportation, food service or capital costs, and only includes pension costs at 4.6% of wages.
  • Charter and traditional public schools should be funded equally.
  • It costs $14,155 to educate a preschool student age 3 or 4.
  • In addition to the base per-pupil cost, a percentage of the base cost should be provided for special education, English Language Learners, students living in poverty and programs to provide Career and Technical Education.
  • Transportation costs should be funded at $973 per rider until further study can be carried out.
  • Because Michigan’s school district sizes vary widely and small districts lack economies of scale, district size must be taken into account, with funding increases provided for all districts under 7,500 students.

The full Collaborative report is available at

Collaborative leaders emphasized additional research will also be needed in several areas, including a full capital study to examine the costs of charter and traditional public schools; a review of literate and illiterate poverty, and concentration of poverty by district; and a full transportation costs study.

“As a Michigan business owner, I can tell you firsthand that a strong K-12 education is an absolute necessity for our kids to make it in today’s workforce, and to provide that education we need to properly fund our schools,” said Doug Maibach, Chairman of Barton Malow Enterprises. “The comprehensive report released today is promising for any business owner who wants to see talent developed right here in Michigan, and it gives me hope that we can do better to prepare all students for bright futures.”

“The Collaborative’s study concluded that per-pupil funding must be increased to provide all students with a 21st-century education that prepares them for college and careers,” said Angela Reyes, executive director of the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation. “The study also identifies special needs that deserve additional funding to adequately educate all students throughout Michigan.”

“For too long, Michigan’s school funding system has been broken due to a lack of data-driven policymaking, and today’s report provides a comprehensive look at the facts,” said Dr. Michael Addonizio, professor of educational leadership and policy studies at Wayne State University. “We need policymakers in Lansing to use this report as the foundation for badly-needed reform that will help all children throughout our state get a solid education.”

“Michigan’s school funding strategy is a core issue when it comes to ensuring every child has a quality education,” said Tonya Allen, president and CEO of the Skillman Foundation. “The Skillman Foundation’s support of the School Finance Research Collaborative report reflects our dedication to providing the best data available for policymakers who are charged with determining Michigan’s school funding plan.”

The Collaborative is funded by the W.K. Kellogg, Charles Stewart Mott and Skillman foundations, more than 22 Michigan ISD’s and nonprofit organizations statewide.

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