School funding needs to be fair for all schools

School district-wise, Marquette is not Detroit, and Detroit is not Marquette.

So why should they be funded the same way?

The purpose of a study conducted by the School Finance Research Collaborative, a bipartisan group of education experts and business leaders from around Michigan, produced key findings centered on the true cost of providing a good education to every student regardless of income, location or circumstances.

Because the state of Michigan’s school district sizes vary widely, that must be taken into account, with the study calling for funding increases for all districts under 7,500 students.

A student living in Skandia, for instance, has to be transported many miles to get to Gwinn High School, if that’s where the student attends school.

Students in districts with large geographical distances between students’ homes and their schools face the same problem, from many regions in the Upper Peninsula.

The study also made these discoveries:

•The base per-pupil cost to educate a regular education K-12 student in Michigan is $9,590, which doesn’t include transportation, food service or capital costs, and includes only pension costs at 4.6 percent of wages.

•Charter schools should have the same base per-pupil funding for a regular education student and the same adjustments to the base amount that traditional districts receive.

•It costs $14,155 to educate a preschool student age 3 or 4.

•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 conducted.

According to the collaborative, Michigan has 196 school districts with fewer than 1,000 students, and 210 school districts with enrollment between 1,000 and 3,000 students. Smaller districts with fewer students incur greater charges per student as a result.

The study examines how cost differentials can be applied to account for this effect on public school districts.

A solution doesn’t necessarily involve putting more money in the system. Rather, a formula should be developed to take many factors into account.

That’s up to the Michigan Legislature, which if it reads the study, has data on which to base its decisions.

It’s definitely needed.

The collaborative also noted the study found that in 2016, Michigan ranked 24th in per-pupil K-12 spending, and eighth highest in per-pupil spending as recently as 2000.

And since 2000, Michigan’s inflation-adjusted per-pupil spending has fallen by $663 per student, while the U.S. average has increased by over $1,400 per student.

So, legislators, take note on how Michigan funding can be improved.

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