Selective accounting by some does not diminish state's continued investment in education
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer and others who perpetually lobby for increased K-12 education funding claim Michigan's education spending has been cut under Gov. Rick Snyder.
These assertions persist despite the fact that the state-provided portion of per-pupil spending in Michigan is $7,545, up from the $6,844 level of the fiscal year 2011 budget, which was the final budget signed by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Local and federal sources supply about $6,000 more per student.
The mathematical misdirection used to argue that Gov. Snyder has been cutting K-12 funding appears to be based on not counting state dollars that the schools aren't allowed to spend in any manner they choose. Following that line of reasoning, it would be possible for the state to restore (or erase) the alleged cuts and save Michigan approximately $1 billion by returning this year's K-12 education spending to the same level as that of the fiscal year 2011 budget.
"What they (those who say K-12 spending has been cut) want to ignore are funds that are being provided to help relieve burdens the schools would otherwise have to pay," said Ari Adler, spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall. "It's like coming along and helping someone pay their mortgage and then they say that you aren't helping them enough with their other bills. But the point is that when you help someone pay their mortgage they will end up with more money that can be redirected for their other costs."
Rep. Tom McMillin, R- Rochester Hills, a member of the House Education Committee and its former chairman, said Democrats could force a vote on returning to the K-12 education state spending level of FY 2011 if they really want to do so.
"If the Democrats want to put up an amendment to the K-12 appropriations to put funding numbers back to Gov. Granholm's last budget, they could certainly do that and try to get the 56 votes needed for passage," Rep. McMillin said. “I don't think many in our caucus, let alone in the Democratic caucus, would support such funding cuts, but they can try."
Audrey Spalding, director of education policy with Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said that for those who keep insisting K-12 spending has declined under Gov. Snyder, returning to the level of spending under the previous administration would seem to be a logical option.
"Going back to 2010-11 school spending levels could save taxpayers $1 billion,” Spalding said. “If that's what politicians and school officials want, then I'm sure Michiganders would appreciate the savings, especially if it led to a $1 billion tax break."
Nationally, Michigan ranks 8th in the nation in per pupil spending when adjusted for per capita income, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures. When the numbers are not adjusted, Michigan ranks 23rd.
Schauer, State Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood, D-Taylor, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Education Committee and State Rep. Sam Singh, D- East Lansing, the ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee, did not respond to requests as to whether they would support returning to fiscal year 2011 education spending levels.