Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

James Berry, EdD, Chair

Committee Member

William Price, PhD

Committee Member

Theresa Saunders, EdD

Committee Member

Mary Vielhaber, PhD


The purpose of this research was to study the factors that contribute to financial deficits, examine the strategies used to reduce deficits, and explore the barriers that may prohibit the reduction of financial deficits. As part of legislative mandates, school superintendents are faced with creating a deficit elimination plan to reduce the financial deficits facing their districts. In 2013, the State of Michigan began to shut down financially challenged districts for the first time. School districts labeled as “deficit districts” struggled to remove the designation assigned to them. Fifty-eight traditional Michigan public school districts with financial deficits between school years 2010-11 and 2014-15 were the focus of this study. The research methodology utilized for this study was a mixed methods approach. Both qualitative and quantitative models were used to collect and analyze data in pursuit of answers to the stated research questions on factors, strategies and barriers supported by the research of Creswell (2014). Initial exploratory phone interviews were used to develop a quantitative survey. Superintendents who worked in a school district with a financial deficit were surveyed to obtain data to answer and address the research questions. Documentation from the Michigan Department of Education, Senate Fiscal Agency, and Center for Education Performance Information provided the information to create the variables used for the various outputs and statistical analysis. The number of districts with the designation as a deficit district grew from the years 2002 to 2014. The number of deficit districts doubled during the focused years of this study. During this same time, resources to schools declined. The findings indicate that of the three areas (factors, strategies, and barriers) studied in this research, factors are the most prominent causes for creating districts with deficits. The study emphasizes that strategies that school districts use when coupled with increased per-pupil foundation allowance have a huge impact on reducing the number of school districts with financial deficits.