Racism was and remains a fundamental part of U.S. society. Beginning with the country’s institutionalization of slavery, institutions such as the law, housing, and education have reinforced the concept of Whiteness while maintaining systemic racial barriers (Leonardo & Harris, 2013; Mills, 1997). Michigan’s laws and policies reinforce racism, discrimination, and K-12 public school segregation for Michigan’s Black students. Urban areas such as Detroit are home to disproportionately large numbers of low-income and minority populations often confined to the poorest neighborhoods (Orfield et al., 1997). Concentrated poverty is a significant barrier to educational progress and has links to poor emotional and physical health, low academic achievement, and few prospects for future employment (U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 2019). Enforced racial segregation is the most obvious manifestation of subordination. 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 education funding and provides a unique perspective of how property wealth inequalities in Michigan fall especially hard on districts that primarily serve Black students who receive free and reduced lunch (FRL).
Note. District Taxable Value of Property Per-pupil by District by Percentage of Students Who Are Black and Receive FRL, 2018-19.
Caldwell, P., Smart, R., & Richardson, J. (2021). An investigation to explain structural racism associated with Michigan public charter districts funding effort. Journal of Education Human Resources, 39(2), 165-183.
Black students receive less local education revenue. In Michigan, local education revenues are primarily sourced from local property taxes, which are in turn based on the taxable value of property in each district. There is a strong, negative relationship between taxable value per-pupil and the percentage of a district’s enrollment that is Black and receives FRL. For every percentage point increase in percent Black and FRL students, taxable value per-pupil decreases by $2,354. This slope implies that, on average, a district made up of only Black students receiving FRL would have $235,400 less taxable value per-pupil than a district without any Black students receiving FRL (see figure left).
Like most states, Michigan includes both cities (e.g., Detroit and Flint) and remote rural areas (e.g., Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula). In Michigan, Black and White students, particularly impoverished Black and White students, are de facto segregated and
unequally distributed across the city and rural locales. Almost 59 percent of Black students receiving FRL live in cities. Only 2.7 percent live in rural areas, compared to 16 percent and 27 percent of White students receiving FRL, respectively.