'If you repeat a lie long enough, people begin to believe it'
In three of her last four budgets, Gov. Jennifer Granholm cut state funding to K-12 schools.
In Gov. Rick Snyder's first four budgets, he has increased state funding to K-12 schools, up to a record $12 billion in 2014-15, according to the Senate Fiscal Agency.
So how is Gov. Snyder being tagged by critics as the villain who has cut funding to school children?
The answer lies in how the complicated nature of school funding has been the most misunderstood story reported in the media, as well as a campaign to portray schools as underfunded.
“If you repeat a lie long enough, people begin to believe it,” said Charles Owens, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business. “The MEA and other apologists for the previous administration continue to repeat that lie. A lot of school superintendents continue to repeat that lie. And it’s a lie because it doesn’t consider total funding.”
As of March, a Denno-Research poll showed that many Michigan residents believed that Snyder cut funding. When asked, “In the three years that Governor Rick Snyder has been in office, do you think he overall has increased or decreased spending for K-12 schools?” 53.8 percent of the people polled said they thought he decreased spending on K-12 schools. Just 18 percent thought Gov. Snyder had increased spending and 24 percent either didn’t know, were unsure or refused to answer.
Gary Naeyaert, executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project, pointed out that Gov. Granholm had $2 billion a year in federal funds in her final three budgets from 2008-09 to 2010-11. Gov. Snyder has seen federal support drop since taking office and has never had more than $1.8 billion in federal support in a year.
“She cut state funding and replaced it with federal temporary stimulus funds that everyone knew was going to end,” Naeyaert said. “Snyder lost federal funds and replaced it with state funds. And he’s the bad guy.”
The MEA school employee union has started a website that claims to show how “Snyder’s school cuts have hurt your district.” It cites the Michigan Department of Education as a source.
But the numbers don’t add up.
For example, the MEA’s site states that Armada Area Schools lost $2.8 million total from 2011-12 to 2014-15 by comparing how much funding has been lost each of those years compared to 2010-11. The MEA highlighted the district in its magazine when Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer made a campaign visit to the district.
But according to the MDE, the Armada district has received more money from the state in each of the three years that Gov. Snyder controlled the budget, despite a decrease in students. Armada received $13.5 million in 2010-11, which was Gov. Granholm’s last budget. The district received $13.7 million in 2011-12 and 2012-13. It took in $13.8 million in 2013-14.
But even Schauer concedes that Michigan schools are getting more money from the state. In the August issue of the MEA Voice magazine, an article claims Gov. Snyder has cut $2.8 billion from schools compared to 2011. However, Schauer is quoted in the article saying schools are getting more.
"With most Michigan schools getting about 29 cents more per pupil per school day, at the current rate of inflation, this means districts will actually get less in next year's budget than they did this year," Schauer said.