A Michigan Education Association employee sent out an e-mail seeking to rally support from members by exaggerating Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed cuts to schools and warning that emergency financial manager takeovers of their school districts is “inevitable.”
The MEA’s Renaye Baker sent the e-mail March 11 with the subject line: “IT’S ME AGAIN—TALK TO YOUR MEMBERS—pass along.” Neither Baker nor MEA spokesman Doug Pratt responded to e-mails seeking comment.
The e-mail states that the governor’s pending K-12 budget includes a $700 per-pupil cut. Snyder has proposed a $300 per-pupil reduction and is extending a $170 cut made last year that was backfilled by federal money, said Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
Van Beek said he believes other school-related costs, such as an increased mandatory pension contribution, is what accounts for the $700 per-pupil figure that the MEA is using.
Emergency financial managers would only be appointed for districts that decided to spend everything they had and more, rather than controlling costs, Van Beek said. He noted that the “possibility” of an emergency financial manager taking over a district has been around since 1990.
James Hohman, a fiscal policy analyst, said the cuts Snyder proposed would probably not lead to financial emergencies for school districts.
“The executive budget lowers school district revenue by less than five percent,” Hohman wrote in an e-mail. “At that level, it’s not likely that you’ll see a lot of districts go into state receivership. These bills actually do the opposite of taking over schools — they encourage districts to fix their own problems. School districts spend most of their money on unionized employees. The power to rework union contracts is a powerful incentive for union officials to come to the negotiating table so as to stave off financial emergencies.”
As to the impact of the per-pupil cut, Van Beek has examined the issue in a report on common school funding myths, released in December.
“Michigan taxpayers transfer a greater proportion of their income to public schools than all but two states,” wrote Van Beek. “Figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (and reported by the National Education Association) show that some $52 out of every $1,000 in state personal income is consumed by our public school establishment. Wyoming residents pay $56 per $1,000, and the national average is around $42 per $1,000. Residents in Nevada pay the least, $28 per $1,000 of personal income.”