While the state Legislature debates Gov. Rick Snyder’s $300 per-pupil school aid cut, many public school and union officials have been making the rounds in the media. For many Michigan residents, five easy questions can help make sense of the issue — and reveal where school districts really stand financially.

For starters, here are some examples of the one-sided information presented by the public-school establishment, contrasted with the actual facts:

  • Rochester Schools claimed a cut of $28 million in the last decade; its overall general fund expenditures grew by over $48 million.
  • Utica Community Schools said they cut $65 million since 2002; audit reports show they will spend $53.5 million more in 2011 than in 2002.
  • Midland Public Schools vouched for a cut of $19 million “over the last decade.” But general fund expenditures climbed from $75.1 million in 2000 to $83.8 million in 2010, despite a student enrollment drop from 9,484 in 2001 to 8,466 in 2011.
  • Saline Schools claimed a cut of $6.8 million over three years; records show the district’s total general fund budget actually grew by $600,000.
  • East Grand Rapids sent a letter to legislators claiming to have cut $3.5 million since 2006; its budget grew from $23.8 million to $28.1 million.
  • The Godfrey-Lee Schools superintendent claimed to have just cut $1.4 million; the district’s website shows it spent $2.3 million more in 2011 than 2010.
  • Bay City Schools said it had reduced spending by $24.6 million since 2000; records show the district actually spent $5 million more in 2011 than in 2000.
  • Coleman Schools claimed state government wanted to "cut and cut and cut"; in the meantime, the district has lost 23 percent of its students while spending per pupil increased by 23 percent.

While some school administrators argue that this is merely “a matter of semantics,” for Michigan residents, this information has made it difficult to sort out fact from fiction. To help simplify what can often be an overly complex problem, here are five easy questions anyone can ask their school officials.

1.       Has your district’s overall spending increased over the past decade?

If the district claims to have “cut” by a certain amount, these “cuts” may be covered up by increased spending in other areas.

2.       How much money per pupil did the district receive 10 years ago?

3.       How much money per pupil does the district receive today?

For some districts, it may appear that spending has stagnated or even been cut. However, if a district has significantly fewer students today than in the past (see the example of Midland Public Schools above), overall funds may have decreased while per-pupil spending has risen.

4.       What are the district’s teachers paying toward their health care?

In 2009, public school teachers in 300 Michigan districts paid nothing to the costs of their own health insurance premiums. In fact, the average contribution for a teacher’s family plan is 4 percent, while the Michigan private-sector average is 21 percent, and the average for federal employees in Michigan is about 25 percent.

5.       What is the average salary of a teacher who has been employed by the district for 10 years or more?

Automatic step increases can bring significant pay raises very quickly. See: The Salary History of a Michigan Public School Employee.

Nearly all public school collective bargaining agreements have a “single salary schedule” (or “automatic step increases”) for teacher compensation. The schedule builds in automatic pay raises for employees based only on longevity of employment and the education degree-level achieved. According to Michael Van Beek, the director of education policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Essentially, this means that teachers would receive a pay increase for every year they remain employed by the district, regardless of their students' performance, the district's financial situation, or the conditions of the state's economy.”

 

As the state budget deadline approaches, and the debate in the legislature continues to heat up, it is increasingly important for Michigan citizens to have all the facts in a simple, concise way. It should also be noted that some districts are using their funds more wisely than others. With these five easy questions for every school official, taxpayers will more easily be able to sort out the difference.

~~~~~

See also:

How $10 Million Spending Increases Become K-12 Budget Cuts

Coleman Schools: 23 Percent Fewer Kids, 23 Percent More Spending Per Kid

Carman-Ainsworth Schools: Multi-Million-Dollar Deficits and 6.7 Percent Raises

Rochester Schools Reduce 6.5 to 7.5 Percent Raises by Half-Point - Declares Budget Cut

What Does the Average Teacher in Ann Arbor Really Make?

Bay City Public Schools Claims $24 Million Cut, Budget Continues to Grow

Unusual: For 30 Years Teachers Share Almost Half of Health Care Cost in Grand Ledge

Will the Snyder K-12 Plan Really Cause 40-Student Classrooms in Novi?

Spending Mysteries at Utica Schools

Rochester Schools Raise Pay, Report Cuts, and Blame Governor

Does the Lansing School District Really Pay 'Below the Poverty Line' for Teachers?

West Michigan School Super Claims Budget Cuts - But Do the Numbers Add Up?

Decade of Cuts Is Claimed by School District Giving 14 Percent Raises Over 24 Months

Stay Engaged

Simply enter your email below to receive our weekly email:

Facebook
Twitter

Most Popular

The Hesters attended Detroit public schools and believe now as parents, families need to have buy-in to make school a success for their children. Upon research, they found a charter that best suits their needs and their daughters are excelling.

Related Sites