The Clarkston Community Schools superintendent recently sent a letter wondering whether Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed $300 per pupil cuts were “the end of public education as we know it.” In his letter, Superintendent Rod Rock said the governor, other politicians and the Michigan Department of Education are “not knowledge authorities on education.”
Rock also wrote: “Improving schools is not a function of government. Governments do not improve schools. … The government needs to get out of the education business.”
Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said it’s ironic for a government bureaucrat such as Rock to be making such claims.
“He’s hired by government officials to run a government entity,” Van Beek said. “Government has to get out of the education business? Yeah, except school districts rely on government forcing people to attend them and forcing everyone to pay for them.”
After Rock said he wanted government out of the education business, he next noted that schools needed options to raise revenues.
“I suspect what he means is that he wants to be able to raise local revenue, which again is only available through the power of taxation and the power of government,” Van Beek said.
Van Beek said that Snyder’s plan is only a 4 percent reduction in state per-pupil funding.
What Rock didn’t put in his letter was that Clarkston’s general fund expenditures have grown 23 percent since 2000, after adjusting for inflation. Many teachers received raises between 6.3 and 7.7 percent this year and didn’t pay anything toward their health insurance premiums. The average teacher’s salary has grown 18 percent in the last 10 years, after adjusting for inflation.
“According to the fiscal track record of this district, ending public education as they know it means not being able to expand their budget every year and offer gold-plated benefits for employees,” Van Beek said.
Rock didn’t respond to an email or phone message seeking comment.
Clarkston Community Schools negotiated new employee contracts for next school year that will reportedly save $3 million a year, according to The Oakland Press.
Clarkston’s general fund expenditures were $53.9 million in 2000 ($68.2 million in 2010 dollars) and increased to $83.7 million in 2010. Student enrollment has increased from 7,344 students in 2000 to 8,251 in 2010.
The average teacher’s salary in Clarkston was $45,148 in 2000 ($57,171 in 2010 dollars) and increased to $67,995 in 2010.