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What kind of education do you get if you spend $12,000 per student?

Jennifer Guerra
Michigan Radio
Nathan Cohen teaches 5th grade at Pierce Elementary in Birmingham

Our State of Opportunity team has been diving into the issue school funding over the past couple months.

The vast majority of Michigan K-12 schools get between $7,000 - $8,000 per pupil every year. But there are some schools that get more…a lot more. We're talking about roughly a $5,000 difference between the richest schools in the state and the poorest schools.

When it comes to per pupil funding, is there a magic number?

When it comes to per pupil funding, we've got about a $5,000 spread between the richest and poorest schools in Michigan. Craig Thiel is with the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. State of Opportunity reporter Jennifer Guerra called him up to ask him if there's a "magic number" for how much it takes to educate a child in Michigan.

"The quick answer is no," says Thiel.

He says other states have come up with a number, but more often than not it's because they were forced to as a result of a court challenge. "The state of Michigan hasn’t been required to do an adequacy study," explains Thiel, "so we don’t know what it costs to deliver a basic public education in Michigan."

So what does a top dollar education look like?

To find out, Guerra visited Pierce Elementary in the leafy Detroit suburb of Birmingham. The kids at Pierce might now know it, but they’re some of the lucky ones. Through a combination of state and local money, Birmingham Public Schools spends nearly $12,000 on each one of its students, one of the highest per pupil dollar amounts in the state.

Check out State of Opportunity's latest story to see what it's like for the kids at Pierce Elementary, where the district spends $11,804 per pupil.

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.
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