West Bloomfield Superintendent Gerald Hill says district gets less than 2010, state numbers say otherwise
As the statewide debate over school funding continues, an Oakland County superintendent whose district receives about $515 more per student today than it did in 2010 says the district is getting less money from the state.
West Bloomfield School District Superintendent Gerald Hill made his claim on April 11 in MIRS, a Lansing-based news site.
The district is receiving less in the "state foundation allowance," which has dropped from $9,116 per student in 2009-10 to $8,676 per student in 2013-14. But the state foundation allowance is only a part of the state funding a school district receives.
West Bloomfield received another $7.2 million outside of the state foundation allowance in 2013-14 that was used to pay for such things as special education, adult education and teacher retirement benefits. That financial data comes from the Michigan Department of Education's status funding reports.
Many advocates for more funding for conventional public schools are ignoring the money that districts get in addition to the foundation allowance.
"The West Bloomfield superintendent is repeating the same misinformation that we have seen from the MEA and other school officials," said Audrey Spalding, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. "By only considering the foundation allowance, he is ignoring nearly $1,200 per student in funding from state taxpayers."
The MIRS article said there were charter public schools around West Bloomfield that were creating competition. Hill said that made the challenges for his district "really complex."
However, West Bloomfield has enrolled 1,642 students from outside the district, including about 750 students from the Pontiac School District through the state's schools of choice program. West Bloomfield has 6,058 students, meaning about 27 percent of the student body is from outside the district.
"West Bloomfield takes in hundreds of Pontiac students through schools of choice," Spalding said. “Clearly the district understands the power of choice and how providing students with a better educational option can improve a school's bottom line."
The MIRS article stated:
West Bloomfield School District Superintendent Gerald HILL said that after the district posted a $1.7 million deficit in FY 10, it made big changes that included a 10 percent pay cut for staff and outsourcing custodial and transportation services.
Those are big changes, but will they keep the district off future deficit lists?
'Getting off it is one thing. Staying off it could be another with the continuing flatness of support after a decline from the state,' Hill said.
There are private schools around West Bloomfield, and statewide districts are facing competition from charter schools.
'We have fewer students, less money, but we're creating more schools. That makes the challenge really complex,' Hill said.
Although Hill pointed to a 10 percent pay cut that made statewide news in 2011-12, the district's own payroll records show the district never came close to seeing that kind of cost savings. There were 256 people identified as teachers on a payroll spreadsheet provided by the district for 2011-12 when the 10 percent cut was implemented and also the next year. Overall compensation for those teachers dropped by 1 percent.
Teachers could take on additional responsibilities such as a coaching job as one way to increase their salary. Overall gross salaries of all 689 employees on payroll in 2011 and 2012 increased from $27.7 million to $28.1 million. The district's payroll dropped $2.3 million in 2012, but there were 86 fewer employees on payroll in 2012 than in 2011.
Hill didn't respond to a request for comment.