It seems like a simple question: How are Michigan school districts funded? Well, that is not as easy of a question to answer as you would think. The simple answer is through local, state, and federal taxes. But why do some districts get more funding than others?

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The primary source of a district's revenue is the School Aid Fund (SAF), partially funded by the State Education Tax, which is collected, with a few exceptions, on most property in Michigan at a rate of 6 mills.

Why Some Michigan Schools Lack the Funding of More Successful Districts

Michigan.gov Student Budget Office
Michigan.gov Student Budget Office
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Each district's funding varies, as local property taxes are a big part of the school's bottom line. This is what separates big-budget schools from the rest.

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Some areas have large employers and densely populated mid to upper-income family homes that pump dollars into the education systems. Michigan school districts that don't have the population or business tax base get left behind.

Two different schools, showing the difference funding makes
Canva
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Schools can also generate up to an additional 18 mills if the district's voters approve it. But what are districts to do that can't get millages passed? Will the children in those schools get the same education as other more well-funded schools in more affluent areas? Sadly, no, they won't.

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Studies have shown that low-income districts in Michigan are underfunded by $6,700 per student. Michigan schools may all share the same funding formula but, the math always works in favor of schools with a higher tax base and leaves those without to scramble for ways to offer the same opportunities.

Ranking 531 Michigan School Districts: Spending v Income

WalletHub.com, using data collected from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Education Statistics, looked at 531 Michigan school districts and ranked them based on the average funding per pupil and weighed it against the average household income in the district.
Every 1% the district spent above Michigan's average per student was deducted 1 point from their score and 1 point added for every percentage point over. The lower the score, the more equitable the district.
For Wallethub's full methodology, scroll to entry 531.

Gallery Credit: Scott Clow

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