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Public education in Michigan

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K-12 Education in Michigan
State Superintendent: Michael Flanagan
Number of students: 1,573,537[1]
Number of teachers: 86,997
Teacher/pupil ratio: 1:18.1
Number of school districts: 869
Number of schools: 3,550
Graduation rate: 76%[2]
Per-pupil spending: $10,823[3]
See also
Public education in Michigan
Michigan Department of Education
Michigan school districts
List of school districts in Michigan
The Michigan public school system (prekindergarten-grade 12) operates within districts governed by locally elected school boards members and superintendents. Michigan has 591 school districts and 841 public schools with approximately 1,631,200 enrolled students.[4]

The Michigan state constitution requires that the state legislature "maintain and support a system of free public elementary and secondary schools as defined by law." Additionally, the constitution notes that the legislature has the authority to provide transportation of students to and from any school.[5]

School revenues, expenditures and budget

See also: Michigan state budget
Michigan's education costs are 30% of the state budget

Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm recommended a $43.44 billion budget for FY 2009-2010, of which education accounts for $13.08 billion or 30.1% of the total budget.[6] In order to address the state's looming budget deficits Granholm recommended a $164 million budget cut to K-12 spending.[7] Michigan is reportedly facing a $1.7 billion budget deficit for FY 2009 and a $1.6 billion deficit for FY 2010. According to state officials, even with incoming Federal Stimulus dollars the state expects to see a $300 million shortfall.[8]

In 2010, the state voted in 23 new school bonds and 43 new taxes to help fund schools.

The cost per pupil is $10,069, ranking 21st highest the nation according the Census Bureau 2007-2008 report.[9]

Education Cuts in FY2012 Budget

School administrators fear Gov. Snyder's proposed cuts will force school districts to cut staff, close buildings, privatize some services, create more online courses and cause administrators to share more duties, measures Snyder maintains will cause school districts to become more efficient while still providing an excellent education. Michigan has more than 500 school districts.[10] More than half of Michigan's school districts include fewer than 2,000 students.[11]

Snyder proposed cuts between 8 and 10% for school districts, which translates into a $715-per-student reduction. Those reductions include the loss of $170 per student in federal money, a $300 cut by Snyder in per-pupil funding and the fact that districts have to pay a bigger share of pensions, costing them $245 per student, according to the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council.[12]

Several media outlets in Michigan, including the Detroit Free Press, are calling for the consolidation of some school districts following the release of a 2010 Michigan State University study. The study said taxpayers could save $612 million a year after three years by consolidating districts around county lines, without closing any schools. Putting all public school transportation, food service and operations and maintenance at the county level would save $328 million, the study said.[13]

Snyder also proposed to shift $896 million in the school aid fund to colleges and universities. The proposed shift from that fund, typically used for k-12 programs, angered public educators who say institutes of higher learning have other means to raise funds.[14]

Snyder has not thrown support behind bills in the legislature that would eliminate tenure, freeze teachers' pay if a contract expires, force teachers to pay at least 20 percent of their health care costs or otherwise affect collective bargaining rights.[15]

Snyder's proposed educational budget cuts are not popular. According to an EPIC-MRA poll, 62 percent oppose Snyder's plan, with 32 percent in favor and 6 percent undecided. The poll surveyed 600 likely voters from Feb. 26 through Tuesday and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.[16] According to Ann Arbor school leaders, the district was facing a $7 million deficit, but if Snyder's proposals are approved, that deficit could jump to between $15 and $20 million.[17]

In May of 2010, Synder reduced his cuts planned for education, which were originally around $300 per pupil, to $100 per pupil.[18][19]

Detroit closes half of its schools

State education officials have ordered the district's emergency financial manager, Robert Bobb, to impliment a financial restructuring plan that asks for half of the schools to be closed.[20] Part of the plan will swell certain classroom sizes to 60 students per class.[20]

Currently the district is facing a $327 million deficit and is paying $55 million a year to pay principal and interest payments. Part of Bobb's plan asks that the district borrow an additional $219 million by March in order for it not to declare bankruptcy, and will include teacher layoffs in April.[20] With the closing of the schools, the district is also seeing a $470 per-pupil cut in spending, proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder.

Personnel salaries

In 2008 the average Michigan teacher salary is approximately $56,000 compared to a nationwide average salary of $40,800.[21] In the 2006-07 school year Michigan had an average teacher salary of $55,541 and ranked 9th in the nation according to the American Federation of Teachers. In 2005-06 the average salary was $54,739 and ranked 7th.[22] By June 30, 2010 all school districts were required to post financial, salary, and benefit information according to the School State Aid Act.[23]

School year Average annual teacher salary Average beginning teacher salary
2006-07 $55,541[22] $34,100[22]
2005-06 $54,739[22] n/a[22]
2004-05 $53,959[22] $35,557[22]

As part of the new financial transparency regulations, it was revealed in Washtenaw County, that over 134 employees were earning over $100,000.[24]

Superintendent salaries for Washtenaw County, Michigan[24]
District Superintendent Wages Total compensation
Ann Arbor Todd Roberts $188,480.77 $247,751.43
Chelsea Dave Killips $177,079.92 $215,380.41
Saline Scot Graden $139,734 $188,747
Whitmore Lake Kim Hart $124,223 $178,689
Manchester Shawn Lewis-Lakin $128,123.7 $175,757.48
Ypsilanti* Dedrick Martin $169,139 $169,139
Dexter** Rob Glass $135,000 $155,087
Milan Bryan Girbach $135,411.16 $148,481.08
Lincoln Lynn Cleary $131,000 $138,562
Willow Run*** Laura Lisiscki $89,333 $118,529
  • *Was hired midway through 2009-10 school year
  • ** Is no longer Dexter superintendent
  • *** Is the acting superintendent


In 2010, the Senate voted to enact a teacher tenure reform but the bill later died in the House.[25] The legislation would have made it easier to fire tenured teachers, which is currently very difficult to do. An example of this was Timothy Grider who worked for Bryan Center Public schools but was arrested for picking up a prostitute. The school also found an empty vodka bottle in his classroom, but was unable to fire the teacher. Instead they settled for a year's salary and early retirement, which cost the school $106,307.[26]

Role of unions

The main unions related to the Michigan school system are Michigan Education Association (MEA), an affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA), and AFT Michigan. MEA is the largest education association in the state. For the 2003 tax period MEA had: $73.26 million in total revenue, $67.07 million in total expenses and $52.27 million in total assets.[27] AFT Michigan had: $3.67 million in total revenue, $3.69 million in total expenses and $2.29 in total assets.[28]

List of local Michigan school unions:[29]

Role of school boards

The State Board of Education serves as the general planning and coordinating body for public education. Additionally, the board advices the legislature on the financial status and requirements for public education. The superintendent is appointed by the board and serves as chairman of the board without the right to vote. The board as a whole consists of eight members which are nominated by party conventions. They are elected at large for a terms of 8 years. However, during a vacancy the governor may appoint a new member.[30]

Taxpayer-funded lobbying

See also: Michigan government sector lobbying

The main education government sector lobbying organizations are the Michigan Association of School Boards and the Michigan Association of School Personnel Administrators.


The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a nonpartisan research and educational institute., a project of the Mackinac Center, features revenue and spending data for Michigan public school districts as reported by the state Department of Education along with categorical grant data and school checkbook registers. [31] Additionally, the organization has 5 databases that provide detailed information on state public schools, including: union contracts, revenues and expenditures.


A 2009 study, Leaders and Laggards, conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for a Competitive Workplace, Frederick M. Hess of the conservative American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, and the Center for American Progress, gave Michigan: "C" in academic achievement; "C" in truth in advertising about student proficiency; "C" in rigor of standards; "C" in post-secondary and workforce readiness; "B" in for its teacher workforce policies; "D" in data quality.[32]


In March 2009 Chippewa Valley and Clintondale Community Schools districts announced that they are taking steps to give taxpayers the opportunity to monitor government spending. The board of trustees approved the districts' placing the bills or check registers on the schools' websites. Clintondale district said that they are currently discussing the increasing school spending transparency.[33]

Academic performance

The chart below details the number of schools that made and did not make the (Adequate Yearly Progress) AYP for school years 2006 through 2009. AYP is used by the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program to determine the academic performance of schools. In the 2008-2009 school year Michigan had a total of 3,671 schools, of which 85.62% met AYP requirements and 14.38% did not meet AYP requirements. However, 14% or 514 schools of the state's total schools have been identified for improvement.[34]

Year Schools Making AYP Schools Not Making AYP Schools Identified for Improvement Total # of schools
2008-09 3,143 528 514 3,671
2007-08 3,003 758 478 3,761
2006-07 3,153 648 383 3,801

State Budget Solutions’ Education Study: “Throwing Money At Education Isn’t Working”

State Budget Solutions’ examined national trends in education from 2009-2011, including state-by-state analysis of education spending, graduation rates, and average ACT scores. The study shows that states that spend the most do not have the highest average ACT test scores, nor do they have the highest average graduation rates. A summary of the study is available here. Download the full report here: Throwing Money At Education Isn’t Working.

See National Chart to compare data from all 50 states.

State Spending on Education vs. Academic Performance 2012

State 2011 Total Spending[35] 2011 Education Spending[36] 2011 Percent Education Spending 2012 Total Spending[37] 2012 Education Spending[38] 2012 Percent Education Spending 2010 Avg. ACT score[39] 2011 Avg. ACT score[40] 2012 Avg. ACT score[41] 2010 Graduation Rate[42] 2011 Graduation Rate[43]
Michigan $92.8 billion $32.4 billion 34.9% $90.7 billion $31.9 billion 35.1% 19.7 20.0 20.1 77.0% 76.3%

School choice

School choice options include:

  • Charter schools: According to the Center for Education Reform, Michigan has one of the strongest charter school laws. Their most recent statistics revealed that Michigan had a total of 278 charter schools and a total of 94,919 students enrolled in charter schools.[44]
  • Public school open enrollment: in Michigan, the state has various open enrollment policies: intra-district and inter-district open enrollment. In other words, students are permitted to enroll in any school within their neighborhood school district or in any alternative district in the state.[45]
  • Online learning: the state of Michigan is one of the largest online providers in the United States. Their program is called Michigan Virtual School (MVS) which in 2007-2008 had more than 11,000 course registrations. According to state officials Michigan is scheduled to create Virtual STEM Academy for students in grades K-12.[45]

Resources for Michigan

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has a posted Michigan School Databases on their website here. The following chart outlines the resources provided:

Database Description Years Covered
Collective Bargaining Agreements Contains collective bargaining agreements for school district employees in PDF form. 2007-2011
Teacher Contract Analysis Collective bargaining agreements are analyzed. 2007-2011
School Performance Performance statistics for comparing the 678 public high schools in Wisconsin. 2007-2010
District Health Insurance Information Information on health insurance for school districts including: enrollees, worker cost, district cost, and total cost. 2008-2009
School District Revenue and Expenditure Report Allows users to compare school districts by expenditures and revenues. 2004 2010
School District Checkbook Register Report Links to school district checkbook registers. 2012
Categorical Grant Report Lists categorical grants by district. 2006-2007

Additional reading

External links


  1. National Center for Education Statistics, "Table 2. Number of operating public schools and districts, state enrollment, teacher and pupil/teacher ratio by state: School year 2011–12," accessed March 18, 2014
  2. ED Data Express, "State Tables Report," accessed March 17, 2014 The site includes this disclaimer: "States converted to an adjusted cohort graduation rate [starting in the 2010-2011 school year], which may or may not be the same as the calculation they used in prior years. Due to the potential differences, caution should be used when comparing graduation rates across states."
  3. United States Census Bureau, "Public Education Finances: 2011," accessed March 18, 2014
  4. Michigan Department of Education,"Number of Public Schools in Michigan," retrieved September 15, 2009
  5. Michigan Constitution,"Article VIII, Section 2," retrieved September 16, 2009
  6. House Fiscal Agency, "Preliminary Review of the FY 2008-09 Executive Budget Recommendation," Feb. 17, 2009
  7. State of Michigan,"Executive Budget:Fiscal Year 2010," retrieved September 15, 2009
  8. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities,"State budget troubles worse," May 18,2009
  9. Maine Watchdog, Education Spending Per Child, July 6, 2010
  10. Associated Press, Gov. Rick Snyder's Education Cuts Aimed at Spurring Change, March 5, 2011
  11. The Port Clinton News Herald "Editorial: Snyder budget forces schools to get lean -- quickly" March 12, 2011
  12. Associated Press, Gov. Rick Snyder's Education Cuts Aimed at Spurring Change, March 5, 2011
  13. The Grand Rapids Press, Is Momentum Growing to Merge School District, Share Services?, March 13, 2011
  14. Associated Press, Gov. Rick Snyder's Education Cuts Aimed at Spurring Change, March 5, 2011
  15. Associated Press, Gov. Rick Snyder's Education Cuts Aimed at Spurring Change, March 5, 2011
  16. Associated Press, Gov. Rick Snyder's Education Cuts Aimed at Spurring Change, March 5, 2011
  17., "Local Leaders Rally in Ann Arbor, Call Governor's Budget an Attack on Michigan Families, Education" March 14, 2011
  18. Detroit News, Budget deal: $310M more for schools, $25M for films, May 20, 2011
  19. Business Week, Gov., GOP chiefs agree on much smaller school cut, May 20, 2011
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 Detroit News, Michigan orders DPS to make huge cuts, Feb. 21, 2011
  21. Kalamazoo Gazette,"Another look at Michigan teacher salaries," April 22, 2008
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 22.4 22.5 22.6 American Federation of Teachers,"Survey and Analysis of Teacher Salary Trends 2007," retrieved September 16, 2009
  23. Michigan Capital Confidential, Schools Starting to Post Salary Details, Aug. 10, 2010
  24. 24.0 24.1 Ann, 88 employees top $100,000 salary mark at Ann Arbor Public Schools, Aug. 8, 2010
  25. Michigan Capital Confidential, Don't Tenure Current Teacher Tenure Law, Dec. 7, 2010
  26. Mlive, Tenure reform: Union says it's open to streamlining process for firing educators, Nov. 21, 2010
  27. Center for Union Facts,"Michigan Education Association," retrieved September 14, 2009
  28. Center for Union Facts,"AFT Michigan," retrieved September 14, 2009
  29. Center for Union Facts,"Michigan teachers unions," retrieved September 14, 2009
  30. Michigan Constitution,"Article VIII, Section 3," retrieved September 16, 2009
  32. U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute,"Michigan Education Report Card," retrieved November 17, 2009
  33. The Macomb Daily,"Two school districts post checks online," March 10, 2009
  34. Michigan Department of Education,"School Report Card and AYP Information 2006-07, 2007-08, and 2008-09," retrieved September 16, 2009
  35. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Total Spending" Aug. 4, 2012
  36. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Education Spending"Aug. 4, 2012
  37. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Total Spending" Aug. 4, 2012
  38. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Education Spending"Aug. 4, 2012
  39. 2010 ACT National and State Scores "Average Scores by State"
  40. [ 2011 ACT National and State Scores " Average Scores by State"]
  41. [ 2011 ACT National and State Scores " Average Scores by State"]
  42. National Center for Education Statistics
  43. National Center for Education Statistics
  44. Center for Education Reform,"National Charter School Data," retrieved September 14, 2009
  45. 45.0 45.1 The Heritage Foundation,"School Choice in Michigan," retrieved September 14, 2009