A news service for the people of Michigan from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Many opponents of Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget cuts are exaggerating by as many as five times what he is proposing to knock out of per-pupil public school funding. Politicians, Michigan Education Association union employees and local superintendents are factoring in costs to the per-pupil reductions that Snyder has nothing to do with, says Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Snyder is proposing a $300 per-pupil cut for 2011-12.

There is an additional $170 per-pupil cut that was already made last year, under the previous governor, but an infusion of federal dollars negated it, Van Beek said. Snyder extended that $170 per-pupil cut for 2011-12, but now without the federal bailout it will actually take effect.

Yet some opponents are citing cut figures as high as $1,700 per student.

In a letter to parents, Walled Lake Consolidated Schools Superintendent Kenneth Gutman said that Snyder’s cut was $470 per-pupil, and that it was just one of the budget challenges schools face.

Gutman said the “real math” showed that Walled Lake had taken a $1,069 per-pupil reduction.

“In fact the full impact of the Governor’s proposal is the largest single annual cut in the history of education in Michigan and will certainly negatively impact programs for our children,” Gutman’s letter read.

According to the Michigan Messenger, MEA spokesman Doug Pratt has claimed that Snyder’s budget proposal will cause per-pupil cuts between $700 and $1,700. Pratt didn’t respond to emails seeking comment regarding how he came up with his per-pupil cut estimates.

State Rep. Jim Ananich, D-Flint, claims that the cuts will be more than $700 if retirement costs are factored in.

Van Beek said school districts will have to increase their contribution to the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System next year from 20.66 percent to 24.66 percent. He believes that the additional money schools will be paying to fund their own employees’ pensions is being unjustly tagged onto Snyder’s per-pupil reductions by some of the critics, even though increased retirement contribution rates are caused by decisions (and indecisions) made years or decades before the governor assumed office.

He also points out that school districts also should have been aware that the federal money that bailed them out of the $170 per-pupil cut last year was a one-time deal.

“Gov. Snyder didn’t create the unsustainable health benefits and defined-benefit pension program schools have to pay for, or the one-time federal cash injections of the past, so he shouldn’t be held responsible when labor costs go up and federal wells run dry,” Van Beek noted.

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