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Michigan School Funding Lower Today Than Pre-Recession

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PHOTO: Overcrowded classrooms, fewer activities, and fewer staff members are some of the short-term consequences of cuts to K-12 education, but a new report suggests not restoring funding to pre-recession levels puts the future of Michigan students in jeopardy. Photo credit: Kevin Connors M.Ed./Morguefile.
PHOTO: Overcrowded classrooms, fewer activities, and fewer staff members are some of the short-term consequences of cuts to K-12 education, but a new report suggests not restoring funding to pre-recession levels puts the future of Michigan students in jeopardy. Photo credit: Kevin Connors M.Ed./Morguefile.
October 16, 2014

LANSING, Mich. - It's a lesson in subtraction. Michigan schools are receiving nearly 10 percent less state funding today than before the recession hit.

According to a new report from the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Michigan is one of 15 states with the most drastic education cuts in the nation. The report analyzed K-12 funding per pupil over the last seven years, adjusting for inflation and enrollment.

Gilda Jacobs, CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy, says this is no way to prepare the state's kids for the highly skilled jobs of the future.

"School districts are still suffering," she says. "They're still trying to figure out what kinds of programs that they need to eliminate, when we should be continuing to ask what do we need to help students achieve."

Jacobs says the state has done a good job of expanding access to quality preschool programs, and she urges lawmakers to turn their attention to restoring funding to K-12 schools. At least 48 Michigan school districts finished the 2013-2014 school year with a budget deficit.

Report co-author Michael Leachman, with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, says taking money away from public schools creates a domino effect with deep consequences for the entire country.

"Deep state funding cuts make it harder for states to improve their schools in these basic and important ways," he says. "If states aren't able to improve their schools, that harms the nation's long-term economic competitiveness."

Jacobs says it's not just urban or low-income schools that are suffering. She points to Ann Arbor, where she says some high school classes now have up to 40 students, and South Lyon, where budget cuts have forced the elimination of many extracurricular activities.

"We're also hearing from lots of different school districts that buildings aren't as clean as they used to be," says Jacobs. "There's not the support for sports and fine arts and music that have been cut."

According to the analysis, 260,000 school district jobs have been cut across the U.S. since 2008.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI