The Michigan Education Association is trying to scare the public and the Legislature by claiming that a $218 per pupil reduction in the state school aid fund would result in 10,000 teacher layoffs. Since this reduction in spending only accounts for 2 percent of the total cost of public schools, it seems highly unlikely that it would require downsizing the number of instructional employees by 10 percent. Looking closely at teacher compensation shows that we could achieve the same savings with exactly zero layoffs, and even if savings came directly from layoffs, it would be less than a quarter of what the MEA threatens.

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According to data provided by the Michigan Department of Education, total employee compensation for instructional services accounted for 46.5 percent of public school costs in FY2008. The Senate Fiscal Agency reports that $382 million will be saved through the $218 per pupil reduction. Factoring in that instructional employee compensation accounts for 46.5 percent of total expenditures, only $178 million of the proposed savings needs to come from reductions in the cost of instructional employee compensation.

In FY2008 there were 105,353 full-time equivalent instructional employees. The total cost for compensating these employees was $8.788 billion, an average cost of $83,415 per full-time instructional employee. In order for the state to save $178 million, it would have eliminate the compensation costs of only 2,134 full-time instructional employees, not even close to the 10,000 hyped by the MEA.

But schools could achieve the same savings without a single layoff. Ironically, it's the MEA's own bargained for school employee contracts and the ancient Teachers' Tenure Act, also defended to the death by the MEA, that force school boards to resort to layoffs. A mere 2 percent reduction to total instructional employee compensation costs would create enough savings to cover the $178 million. This is a reasonable reduction, since Michigan's teachers are well paid compared to the national average. The bargaining and lobbying power of the MEA, all in the name of "teacher protection," corners schools into a situation where their only way of addressing overspending is by laying off school employees.