Nearly 40 Percent of Southeastern Michigan Schools Receive Lowest State Aid Funding

In 2015 Michigan school districts received a per pupil school aid funding increase between $70 and $140 per student, leaving the Southeastern Michigan per pupil funding amounts between $7,391 and $12,004. For 2016 the Michigan Legislature approved lower funding increases at $60 to $120 per pupil, according to the Senate Fiscal Agency. This funding increase was approved by the Legislature on Thursday, June 9, but Gov. Rick Snyder still needs to sign the bill.

While we wait on this action, Drawing Detroit created a map showing the per pupil funding, also known as the foundation allowance, for Southeastern Michigan school districts in 2015. This shows how funding ranges numerically and geographically in the region.

Before we address the current and State Legislature approved per pupil funding for the 108 Southeastern Michigan School districts, it is first important to have a basic understanding of how Michigan schools are funded.

Public schools have three funding streams: state funding, federal funding and local taxation. The main revenue source districts is from the state. Prior to 1994 school districts received majority of their funding from property taxes. However, with the passage of Proposal A in 1993 most local real and personal property taxes for school operating purposes were exempt. To make up for this loss the sales tax in Michigan increased from 4 to 6 percent; that additional 2 percent was dedicated to school funding. Also, cigarette taxes increased and a real estate transfer tax was created to offset the loss of local tax revenues. Additional revenue sources for state school aid funding are the state education tax (6 mills) and portions of revenue from the lottery and casino and industrial facilities taxes.

Prior to Proposition A, local taxation accounted for 69 percent of the state/local funding ratio for public schools, according to the State Senate Fiscal Agency. Now, with the exception of hold-harmless districts (which will be discussed later) operational funding for a district comes from state funding, but local taxes can be levied for school construction, technology and other infrastructure and debt related needs, according to the Senate Fiscal Agency.

The amount originally allocated per pupil per district was determined for the 1994-95 school district based on each districts’ 1993-94 per pupil funding basis, according to the Senate Fiscal Agency. This initial per pupil funding equation varied vastly across the state because it was largely based off of the property values and taxes that were used to fund districts prior to Proposition A. In an attempt to close funding gaps, the state began to give the lowest funded schools double funding increases. While these increases helped make the funding gap smaller in several cases, there are also more than 50 of the about 550 public school districts in the state considered to be hold-harmless districts. This designation means that prior to Proposition A the taxpayers contributed more than $6,500 per pupil in a district. The state decided these districts could continue to levy additional property taxes for school operations.

There are 21 hold-harmless districts in the region, all of which are listed below.

Hold-Harmless Schools
School District Funding County
Bloomfield Hills Schools $12,004 Oakland
Birmingham Public Schools $11,924 Oakland
Jefferson Schools $11,180 Monroe
Southfield Public School District $10,971 Oakland
Lamphere Public Schools $10,429 Oakland
Farmington Public School District $10,045 Oakland
Grosse Pointe Public Schools $9,864 Wayne
Center Line Public Schools $9,503 Macomb
Ann Arbor Public Schools $9,170 Washtenaw
Warren Consolidated Schools $9,006 Macomb
Troy School District $8,955 Oakland
South Lake Schools $8,874 Macomb
Melvindale-North Allen Park Schools $8,675 Wayne
Warren Woods Public Schools $8,638 Macomb
School District of the City of River Rouge $8,505 Wayne
Dearborn City School District $8,482 Wayne
Grosse Ile Township Schools $8,474 Wayne
Trenton Public Schools $8,426 Wayne
School District of Harper Woods $8,169 Wayne
Livonia Public Schools $8,169 Wayne
Northville Public Schools $8,169 Wayne



The Bloomfield Hills School district had the highest foundation allowance in the region for the 2015-16 academic year at $12,004; its proposed funding increase for the upcoming school year is $60 (the lowest proposed increase, which is equivalent to the rate of inflation). There were only 10 districts in the region with foundation allowances above $9,000. These 10 districts, and the other 10 hold-harmless districts are all expected to receive the $60 inflation rate increase in the Legislature approved school funding package. Typically, according to The Bridge Magazine online, the hold-harmless districts tended to be located in wealthier communities. While this doesn’t still hold true for all the districts on the above list (i.e. Harper Woods and River Rouge) there are still some districts on that list where wealth is substantial. One example would be the district at the top of the list—Bloomfield Hills. The Census reported that in 2014 (most recent data) the median income in Bloomfield Hills was $163,462.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, 42 of the districts, or 39 percent, received between $7,391 per pupil (the lowest funding tier) during the 2015-16 academic year. The Detroit Public Schools systems didn’t receive the lowest funding tier, but close to it at $7,434. Districts that had a $7,391 funding allowance for the 2015-16 academic year are all expected to receive a $120 per pupil increase for the 2016-17 academic year, which is the highest proposed increase. The Detroit Public Schools system is expected to receive a $118 increase. This increase is not reflective of the $617 million bill the Michigan Legislature passed on June 9 in an attempt to fix the Detroit Public Schools district; the School Aid Fund doesn’t contribute to this package.

The map below highlights that majority of the districts with the lowest state aid funding are either located in more rural or urban areas.

Student Funding

The Legislature approved funding allowance for the 2016-17 academic year does aim to further close the gap between lowest and highest funded schools, but doesn’t come without criticism. Michigan State University Education Policy Professor David Arsen said in a June 9 Lansing State Journal article that recent state aid funding increases barely stay ahead of inflation increases. Additionally, he noted that schools facing enrollment decline won’t necessarily feel the affects of the funding increase because of the overall monetary loss associated with losing students. According to the State Senate Fiscal Agency, about 65 percent of a public school districts budget is now made up of funds provided by the state, which further emphasizes the budget constraints a district can feel when students leave one district for another.


Once the 2016-17 per pupil funding package is signed by Gov. Snyder, Drawing Detroit will provide an updated map, along with a more in-depth look at the funding increases in relation to student e