Steve Cook said Wayne-Westland lost $40 million under Gov. Snyder; administration official says district received more revenue
The Wayne County school district that the president of the Michigan Education Association highlighted as losing $40 million under Gov. Rick Snyder's watch has actually had its funding increase.
In a column for The Detroit News, MEA President Steve Cook wrote: "Take the Wayne-Westland school district, which has lost $40,465,325 during Snyder's tenure."
He went on to complain about what he claims are cuts to education and about corporations.
But it is unclear where he got his numbers, said Jenny Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Wayne-Westland Community School District.
"According to Deputy Superintendent/Administrative and Business Services Jim Larson-Shidler, the figure of $40,465,325 cannot be substantiated." she said. "In fact, if you included the MPSERS offset (Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System) Wayne-Westland has actually received a modest increase each year. Wayne-Westland's revenues have increased approximately $12,689,146 under the Snyder administration."
Cook, who writes a monthly column as part of a "Labor Voices" feature for The Detroit News, has made inaccurate statements about school funding in his columns in the past.
The MEA didn't respond to requests for comment.
Cook's most recent column made a number of claims about funding, but lacked context. For example, he wrote: "Here's a fact: Every single district in the state receives less money per pupil now than it did in 2010-11."
Cook could have been referring to each district's foundation allowance, which is a per-pupil amount each district receives from the state, but is only part of the total funding the state gives each district.
For example, Wayne-Westland received $66.3 million from the state foundation allowance in 2013-14, but had another $18.6 million from the state, which was not included in the state foundation allowance. So Cook ignored 22 percent of the state money the district received.
The state money not included in the foundation allowance goes to cover things such as special education, adult education, school lunches and the state's contribution to employee retirement health care costs. The state paid $4.7 million of the Wayne-Westland district's costs involved with the Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System, a cost that Cook is not factoring in when he only looks at the foundation allowance.
State taxpayers are paying more per pupil today than they did three years ago, said Audrey Spalding, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
"He [Cook] is attempting to mislead voters," Spalding said.
In fact, many school districts are getting more money from the state than they did in 2010-11, when Jennifer Granholm was governor.
Livonia Public Schools Superintendent Randy Liepa has been quoted by the Detroit metro newspapers as well as TV stations about his concerns with state funding.
Livonia received about $584 more per student in 2013-14 than it did in 2010-11.
Even districts that are in deficit are receiving more money per pupil today than under then-Gov. Granholm.
Albion Public Schools, which recently closed its high school and sent its students to nearby Marshall High School, is getting about $412 more per pupil in 2013-14 than three years earlier.