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Another study aims to figure out how much it costs to educate a child in Michigan

Jennifer Guerra
Michigan Radio

This will be the second so-called adequacy study to try to figure out the cost of educating a child in Michigan.

The state paid $399,000 for the first Michigan Education Finance Study. It was published last year and tried to figure out the base cost of educating a child by looking at the most successful districts in the state. The state, in commissioning the study, chose the "successful schools" model approach to the study and defined success as those districts that "have proficiency levels above the state average for all of the standards under the Michigan Merit Standards."

That study put the base cost for a student in Michigan at $8,667 per year (roughly $1,100 more than the lowest-funded districts currently get), with more money needed for students in poverty and English language learners.

Bob Moore is deputy superintendent of finance and operations for Oakland Schools, and he says the original study is informative and good "but not valid and reliable enough for policy makers to use by itself to guide school finance reform" because it focused mostly on proficiency (i.e. how well districts performed on standardized test scores.) The study did not really take into account student growth, which Moore says "is a flaw."

That's where the new study comes in.

A group called the School Finance Research Collaborative is spearheading the new study, which Moore is leading and is funded in large part by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The collaborative is made up of business leaders and education experts from across the state. The new study will try to capture how much money it takes -- not just to educate kids who start out with high test scores and stay there, but how much it takes to move students from low test scores to significantly better test scores.

Where the state-sponsored study used one method to get at the base cost, the new School Finance Research Collaborative study will use "professional judgment" and "evidence based" methods to research the costs associated with educating all kids in Michigan including those in districts with high concentrations of poverty, special education and English language learners.

Moore puts the study's cost at $445,000 and hopes to have results published by January 2018.

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.