Local school districts receive $4,000 less than other districts

BIG RAPIDS — Without the funding school districts receive from the state, none of them would be at the working capacity they are today and for some, its possible they would not run at all.

While each district receives money from the state, many schools continue to have less than what they need to provide everything they want for their administration, staff, students and community.

In March of 1994, voters in Michigan approved Proposal A. The proposal promised the state would provide money for school districts for each individual student who attended the school.

It capped the level of property taxes school districts could capture at 5 percent  or the rate of inflation, whichever was lower, and it guaranteed the state’s lowest-funded school districts would receive a basic level of education funding. As a result, some schools received more money than before. The proposal aimed to close the gap between lower-funded and higher-funded schools.

Although many local school districts believe there have been benefits to Proposal A, superintendents feel the goal has not been achieved.

“I think the intention of Proposal A was good, and there are ways districts have improved because of it,” said Tim Haist, superintendent of Big Rapids Public Schools. “But at the same time, the proposal has changed so often it hasn’t done what it was meant to.”

Despite the hope to create a fair and balanced funding program, there is enormous disparity in public education funding.

For the 2014-15 fiscal school year, each district in the Mecosta-Osceola Intermediate School district received $7,126 per student. In Oakland County however, schools received close to $4,000 more per student. For example, Bloomfield Hills received $11,884 per student.

“We need to have equity in state funding for schools because the districts receiving more have an unfair advantage,” said Haist. “The state expects us to have the same academic results, but continues to fund schools differently.”

According to Patrick Tiedt, chief of staff for Senator Darwin Booher, when Proposal A went into effect the state looked at the property tax value of each county to determine how much the school districts would receive.

“By passing Proposal A, we knew the lower-funded schools would receive more funding, while the higher-funded schools would not be harmed,” Tiedt said. “Proposal A makes the funding fair.”

No matter the reasoning behind the funding gap, superintendents still feel equal funding in each county would be a better way for Michigan schools to have equal opportunity.

“I would be pleased if we could meet in the middle with the higher-funded schools,” said Howard Hyde, superintendent of Evart Public Schools. “We could bring back programs we had to give up due to funding and buy new buses instead of used ones. We are struggling as it is.”

Many schools in Michigan continue to struggle when it comes to funding, yet there is still a gap between districts.

“Someone once compared school funding to football,” said Haist. “He said if one football team had 11 players on the field and one team had seven players on the field, there would be no competition. With less funding we have less opportunity to compete on a level playing field.”

All schools in the Mecosta-Osceola Intermediate School District received $7,126 per student.

Top 5 schools based on per-student funding from the state for 2014-15 fiscal year:

  • Bois Blanc Pines School District $15,486 — Mackinac County
  • Grant Township School District No. 2 $12,336 — Keweenaw County
  • Bloomfield Hills Schools $11,934 — Oakland County
  • School District of the City of Birmingham $11,854 — Oakland County
  • Mackinac Island Public Schools — $11,200