NEPC Review: School Spending and Student Achievement in Michigan: What's the Relationship? (Mackinac Center, April 2016)
A report from Michigan’s Mackinac Center asserts that there is little or no relationship between student achievement and marginal increases to what the report characterizes as the already “high” levels of spending in that state. Yet the report never substantiates its assertion that present spending levels are high, on average, or uniformly high across all children, districts, or schools statewide. The report discounts a significant body of peer-reviewed research that specifically shows positive effects of previous Michigan school finance reforms, including positive effects on state assessments and educational attainment, concentrated on those students who attended, before those reforms, the lowest funded schools or lower performing schools. Additionally, while the report argues that increased spending on schools as they presently exist would necessarily be inefficient and ineffective, this contention is undermined by the lack of evidence for more efficient alternatives and by existing research validating the value of traditional resources. Both a major national study and a Michigan-specific study show funding increases as efficacious when allocated primarily toward traditional investments (increased teacher salaries and smaller class sizes). Finally, the empirical analysis included in the report lacks depth and rigor when compared to four other studies—three of which were peer-reviewed—each of which find positive effects of prior school finance reforms in Michigan.