Cost of Educating a Child

School Finance Research Collaborative study provides clear direction for funding Michigan's schools

School Finance Research Collaborative logoThe results of a comprehensive study, supported through resolutions made by many of your districts, were released in January 2018.

Brought about by the School Finance Research Collaborative, a diverse group of business leaders and education experts from all over Michigan, the study was conducted by the nation’s top two school finance research firms to ascertain the true cost of educating a student.

That base figure was determined to be $9,590 for a K-12 student in Michigan. It does not include costs associated with transportation, food service or other capital expenses, and only factors in pension costs at 4.6% of wages. In addition to the base per-pupil cost, 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.

Additionally, the school funding system should take into account varying classroom and district sizes, districts in geographically isolated areas and differing transportation costs.

Read the Full Report

Study Recommendations

The following are recommended steps Michigan policymakers can take to provide adequate funding and resources to improve student achievement and to prepare students for the ever-changing modern workforce, including:

  • Using the results of the study to create an adequacy-based funding system with appropriate base cost, weights and adjustments for district characteristics.

  • Keeping in mind that, during the implementation of a new system, student and taxpayer equity will need to be considered.

  • Modifications to how retirement costs are managed, particularly funding the unfunded liability outside of the base cost per student.

  • Additional research in several areas, such as a full capital study to examine district costs; a review of literate and illiterate poverty, and concentration of poverty by district; and a full transportation cost study.

So What Can You Do?

Reach out to your legislators and encourage them to review the study and use the data provided in making education decisions moving forward.

More information, particularly related to advocacy efforts, is forthcoming.

SFRC Core Messages to Share With Your Community

The School Finance Research Collaborative has completed Michigan’s first comprehensive school adequacy study, providing a roadmap to fixing Michigan’s broken school funding system.

  • The nation’s top two school finance research firms determined the true cost of educating a student, informed by nearly 300 Michigan educators from across the state.
  • The final report provides a base cost for student achievement in Michigan, with additional funding considerations for special education, English Language Learners and poverty.
  • The study was supported by the School Finance Research Collaborative, a diverse group of business leaders and education experts, from Metro Detroit to the U.P., who agree it’s time to change the way Michigan's schools are funded.

The study proves that per-pupil funding must be increased to provide all students with a high-quality, 21st century education that addresses their wide-ranging learning needs.

  • The study concluded that it costs a minimum $9,590 to educate a child in Michigan, regardless of location, income, learning challenges or other circumstances.
  • Recognizing that all children are unique and many learn differently, the study calls for additional funding weights for special education, English Language Learners, Career and Technical Education and students living in poverty.
  • The study concluded that Michigan’s school funding system also must take into account district size, districts in geographically isolated areas, and differing transportation costs.
  • Districts and charter schools should get the same base cost for each regular education student, and the comparable wage index should be used to account for cost of living differences.
  • Districts and charter schools in the state pension system should have those legacy costs and other costs fully funded in addition to the base cost per pupil.
  • Further study is needed on capital needs and funding for school districts and charter schools, high-needs poverty and student transportation costs.

With the true cost of educating a student in hand, Michigan policymakers can adopt a new approach that helps improve student achievement, reflects varying student needs, and prepares students for the ever-changing modern workforce.

  • Every child learns differently, and to improve student performance we must change how we fund Michigan’s schools to address the individual needs of all students.
  • The world has changed dramatically since Proposal A passed in 1994, including the advent of the Internet, expanded global competition and increased automation, and our school funding system must reflect those changes.
  • Michigan ranks at the bottom in student performance nationwide, and our students will only continue to fall behind if our school funding system doesn’t address their wide-ranging needs.

Additional Resources

SFRC Toolkit:

MASA SFRC Resource Center

Related Reports and Documentation