Thursday, June 6, 2013

School Aid Budget Exposed: Implications for Washtenaw County

So the School Aid Budget has passed the state legislature, and I guess the best thing we could say about it is that "Things could always be worse." Well, they could be--every school district gets an increase of "at least" $5/student. Woohoo!

The House Fiscal Agency has analyzed the per-pupil increases local schools will see next year. Note how much higher the increases are for the charter schools over the school districts. Note how our most struggling and consolidating districts, Ypsilanti and Willow Run, get the same increase as Ann Arbor. Note how two of our local non-profit charters (yes, most are for-profits) have below-average increases compared to the other charters (and for one of them, compared to the school districts as well). And yet--not a single district or charter school--not ONE--will keep up with inflation this year, because the luckiest schools will get a 1.57% increase, and the least lucky (yes, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Willow Run--you win the lottery!) will get a .02% increase. Meanwhile, inflation is estimated at 1.9%.

Read an excellent (as usual!) explanation of the school funding mechanism and implications--along with an "infographic"--from Michigan Parents for Schools here.

School District
Amount of Increase (“Net Change without Prefunding”)
Ann Arbor
Whitmore Lake
Willow Run
Average District Increase
$26.50 (this is not weighted by number of students; if it were, it would look worse)

Charter Schools
Amount of Increase
Arbor Preparatory High School
Ann Arbor Learning Community
Central Academy
East Arbor Charter Academy
Eastern Washtenaw Multicultural
Fortis Academy
Honey Creek
New Beginnings
South Arbor
$110* (I’m not 100% sure this is correct because it is so much higher than anything else)
South Pointe Charter
Washtenaw Technical Middle College
WSC Academy
Average Charter Increase
$57.75 (this is not weighted by number of students)


  1. Dear Ruth,

    Thank you for taking on the blogging challenge - I appreciate your time and your thoughts.

    This funding is absolutely unbelievable.

  2. What is the justification of the charter school funding increase being so out of line?

  3. The answer stems from what the conference committee did when reconciling the two versions of the budget. The May consensus revenue estimation conference indicated that there was more money for schools than expected. But the legislature also shifted funds to make the per-pupil numbers bigger.

    So, on the front end, districts are receiving between $30 and $60 more per pupil (30 for higher-funded districts, 60 for the lowest funded districts, and those in between get a proportional increase). Then, all districts still below $7,076 got up to $50 per pupil in a one-time "equity payment" to bring them to that level.

    However, to make this work, the legislature cut the existing pension payment assistance to districts by some 35%. Only schools which participate in the state pension system would have received this help, and nearly no charters do.

    The legislature also spent some money to make sure that no district got less than $5 out of the deal. So, higher funded districts like Ann Arbor - who would otherwise have gotten a net cut - are getting $5 per pupil. But many other districts, like Detroit and Ypsilanti, also have funding levels high enough that they would have had a net cut, so they get $5.

    Charters lost nothing from the cut in pension assistance. If they were at the lowest funding level, they could get an increase of $110 per pupil ($60 + $50 equity). Others are somewhere in between.

    Sorry for the long explanation, but then it's obscure for a reason: it's hard to see what they really did.