Investing in Education

By Mike Brownfield | June 19, 2013

For Michigan's students, there's good news next school year --- for the third year in a row, the state is increasing funding for K-12 education.

"Each and every year we've increased funding for K-12 education on a per-pupil basis, and we should be proud of that," Governor Rick Snyder said during a press conference last week. "It's about a 3% increase this year."

In FY2014, the state will spend about $11.4 billion on K-12 education, which comes to $7,450 per student -- an increase of $449.7 million in additional spending over last year. Compare that to 2011, when the state spent about $10.7 billion on K-12 education, or about $6,818 per pupil, amounting to an average increase of $632 per student over the last three years.

The following chart shows a breakdown of that spending, including basic operations, special education, best practices / performance funding, and MPSERS -- the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System. You'll notice that MPSERS represents the biggest increase in spending -- and it's a program that some people might not be familiar with.

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In a nutshell, MPSERS is the retirement program for our public school teachers. For too long, that program was broken, with $45 billion in unfunded liabilities for teachers' retirements. As a result, local schools were having to pick up the tab, and that was draining cash from our students and the classroom.

Last summer, Governor Snyder and the Michigan Legislature enacted a new law to pre-fund that retirement system, helping schools with some of their MPSERS burden. (That’s the increase you see in this chart.) As a result, more money can stay in the classroom to help students instead of going to pay for retirement costs.

“Michigan’s future is absolutely dependent on making our education system a success for our students, our teachers, our parents and our economy,” Governor Snyder said. With the FY2014 budget, Michigan is continuing to increase its commitment to that education system so that our students have the opportunities they deserve.

16,000 More Students in Preschool

On top of increasing funding for K-12 education, Michigan’s FY2014 budget also increases funding for early childhood education by $65 million, giving 16,000 more students an opportunity to attend preschool.

“We’ve had a backlog of kids that couldn’t attend preschool because of need,” Governor Snyder said. “We’re going to put 16,000 of those kids into preschool --  and we’re going to follow up next year with even more.”