Report: ‘Our children deserve better,’ starting with a dramatic increase in how Michigan funds its vulnerable students

Michigan should dramatically increase funding for students from low-income homes by 100%, and provide a financial boost to property-poor school districts that struggle to keep up with their wealthier peers.

Those are two of the main recommendations made in a report released Thursday morning by The Education Trust-Midwest, a Royal Oak-based education research and advocacy organization.

The report adds to a growing discussion in Michigan about how to properly fund schools. Multiple major studies in the last few years have concluded that the state’s system is inadequate and inequitable. The findings haven’t led to major changes. Last year, lawmakers rejected Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s attempt to move toward a system that would pay schools more for students who are more costly to educate.

The report, which also recommends the state spend 75% to 100% more on students who are English language learners, says Michigan should learn from other states. In Georgia, for instance, schools receive 2.5 times more funding for students who are learning English.

“Our children deserve better,” Amber Arellano, executive director of the organization, said in a statement. “Our employers are demanding better. Other states are doing better.”

The report acknowledges that Michigan already provides some additional funding for needy students. For instance, the state spends 11.5% more on students from low-income backgrounds. But that additional money, which this year added up to $960 more per student, “is well below what is recommended by research,” the report says. There are a handful of key recommendations in the report. Michigan should:

  • Provide funding based on student needs. Currently schools receive a flat rate per pupil, with a small amount of additional money going to some populations.
  • Provide more money to less wealthy districts, which would help many urban and rural schools. 
  • Ensure dollars are used well to improve student experiences and outcomes.
  • Be transparent about the system’s design and monitor the funding districts actually receive.
  • Provide transparent data on how much money is going to schools. 

To read the full report, see below.