Carl A. Grant Scholars Lecture: The Intersectionality of Educating Black Students in Michigan: Public School Finance, Racial Segregation, and Housing Policy

March 10, 2023, 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Educational Sciences Room 259

Phillip Caldwell II

Assistant Professor, Eastern Michigan University, College of Education

Phillip Caldwell II

Attend on Zoom:

In many states, the school funding system further disadvantages children living in areas of concentrated poverty (Baker, Farrie, Johnson, Luhm, & Sciarra, 2017; Baker, Farrie, & Sciarra, 2018). The financing of US public schools has historically relied on local taxation, primarily local property taxes, which has long generated substantial inequality in spending levels across school districts (Baker & Corcoran, 2012; Bayer, Blair, & Whaley, 2020). In the United States, educational funding inequities caused by poverty and reliance on local property taxation land especially hard on Black children, 74 percent of whom attend school where at least half the students receive free or reduced-price lunches (FRL), compared with just 31 percent of White children (de Brey, Snyder, Zhang, & Dillow, 2021).

This research focuses on public school funding inequities in Michigan (Cullen & Loeb, 2004), resulting from Michigan’s race-neutral public school funding language and continued reliance on local property taxation for educational funding. We leverage several tenets of critical race theory to investigate relationships between race, income, and school funding in Michigan schools via district-level funding equity measures (i.e., funding level and local fiscal effort), inspired by Baker, Sciarra, & Farrie (2014).

Specifically, the research questions are as follows:

  • How does district per-pupil funding in Michigan vary by race and income?
  • Does variation by race and income depend on whether funding is from state or local sources (funding level)?
  • How does district property wealth in Michigan vary by race and income?
  • How does the proportion of property wealth Michigan districts commit to local education funding (local fiscal effort) vary by race and income?

This is one of the first studies to apply critical race theory, through quantitative analysis, to school finance data. Although others have thoroughly and rigorously analyzed Michigan’s school finance system (Arsen, Delpier, & Nagel, 2019; Arsen & Plank, 2003), this research provides a unique perspective on how property wealth inequalities in Michigan fall especially hard on districts that primarily serve Black students who receive FRL.