An Investigation to Explain Structural Racism Associated with Michigan Public Charter Districts Fund

Phillip Caldwell, Rajah E. Smart, and Jed T. Richardson Journal of Education Human Resources 2021 39:2, 165-183 https://doi.org/10.3138/jehr-2020-0033



The research objective is to explain evidence of structural racism, inequity, and inadequacy in the Michigan public school finance system related to the education of Black students or Black descendants of captive and enslaved Africans. This analysis stems from ongoing research that integrates transformative paradigms, critical race theory, and school funding fairness to explain systemic racism associated with public school funding policy, practice, and educational disparities. The Constitution of the State of Michigan of 1963, Article 9, Sections 3, 5, 8, 11, and 36 (commonly known as Public Act 145 of 1993 or Proposal A), Michigan’s school funding policy, sought to decrease local property taxes and rid the system of funding inequalities across school districts. The legislation’s intention was to achieve four basic goals: (1) reduce property tax burdens; (2) reduce per pupil funding disparities; (3) limit annual increases in property tax assessments and (4) increase site control over local school district finances. As a result, Proposal A (1993) eliminated local school property taxes due to public outcry regarding increasing rates, resulting in a reduction of nearly $7 billion in funding for Michigan’s public schools, beginning in the 1994–95 school year. Proposal A sought to improve the equalization and equity in funding across school districts. This examination uses the lens of critical race theory (CRT) to analyze Michigan’s Proposal A to understand better the unique interplay among the political, economic, and ideological forces influencing public school finance. CRT explains the inherent inequities due to racial, ethnic, and class lines deeply inserted in U.S. society and the public school system. This investigation presents quantitative evidence from Michigan public school data showing that Black students who receive free and reduced lunch (FRL) are overrepresented in charter districts in Michigan. Although students in these schools require greater resources than their peers to achieve similar academic outcomes, Michigan’s charter districts receive less revenue from state and local sources. As a result, Michigan’s charter financing system reinforces racial and socioeconomic inequality by providing less per-pupil funding to Black and FRL students.


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