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School Districts Spends $16,400 Per Student; Union Blames Lack Of Funding For Toilet Paper Shortage

Over past few years, Pontiac Public Schools has a 35 percent increase in teacher's salary and a 45 percent reduction in students

The Michigan Education Association blames a supply shortage in the Pontiac School District on “education funding cuts.”

State Rep. Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, said education funding cuts also left Pontiac without basic supplies, including toilet paper. 

But the claims don't stand up to the district’s own explanation of why it has been in deficit since 2008-09 and ignores the pattern of overspending the district has been engulfed in for the past decade.

Pontiac had a $24.5 million deficit in 2010-11. By law it was required to submit a deficit elimination plan to the state of Michigan explaining how it would wipe out its deficit. Pontiac submitted its plan, however, the next year, the deficit increased to $26 million.

How?

Pontiac’s biggest issue is that students are leaving the district. It had 10,507 students in 2005, which dropped to 5,785 in 2011. In 2007-08, the last year Pontiac was debt free, the average teacher salary in the district was $56,781, according to the state. That jumped to $76,449 in 2010-11, the latest year data is available.

There's been a 45 percent reduction in student population from 2005 to 2011 coupled with a 35 percent increase in the average teacher’s salary from 2008 to 2011.

The Pontiac School District’s own explanation submitted to the state in 2011-12 in its deficit elimination plan highlights a half dozen reasons the district is in debt.

Among the reasons: “increases in wage/benefits and other costs exceeding revenue increases”; there has been “no substantial reduction in staffing” despite student losses; and “planned decreases in expenditures that were not implemented.”

Pontiac has only managed to spend less than it took in twice in the past eight years, according to state data. For example, in 2010-11, the most recent data available from the state, Pontiac spent almost $16,400 per pupil but received $14,125 per pupil in revenue.

Pontiac received $13,488 per-pupil in 2007-08 and that increased to $14,125 in 2010-11, the latest year state data was available. Still, the district’s deficit increased from $8.5 million in 2008-09 to $24.5 million in 2010-11.

“Pontiac's problem isn't a revenue problem, it's a spending problem,” said Audrey Spalding, an education policy analyst with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

The Michigan Department of Education won’t release Pontiac’s 2012-13 deficit elimination plan until it has been approved by the MDE.

MEA Spokesman Doug Pratt and Pontiac School Board President Carol Turpin didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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See also:

Pontiac Turnaround Stories: City vs. Schools

Top Spending School Districts Not Necessarily In Wealthiest Areas

Michigan Democrat: Teacher Union Leaders Are 'Disconnected'

Coverage of School District Claiming Cuts

Meet James Hohman, Assistant Director of Fiscal Policy at the Mackinac Center. James discusses his latest project, an analysis of Proposal 1, the proposal on personal property tax reform that will appear on the August 5th ballot. Read more about Proposal 1 here: http://www.mackinac.org/20246


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