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

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Hypocrisy Over Private Organizations 'Profiteering' Off Education System

MEA says profits bad for some, good for education establishment

Steve Cook

Michigan Education Association President Steve Cook does not like charter public schools and says he is concerned about how they are funded.

"If we're going to be honest with ourselves for just a second, we have to acknowledge there is simply too many people and private corporations making too much money off the public schools with very little student learning to show for it," Cook told the State Board of Education, according to a story in MIRS.

Cook's total compensation was $212,848 in 2013 as president of the MEA, a private organization with annual revenue of $133 million. The MEA, which is the state's largest teachers union, has 112 employees who have annual salaries of $100,000 or more, according to reports filed with the IRS.

Neither Cook, nor an MEA spokeswoman responded to a request for comment.

But the MEA is not the only organization in Michigan that complains about charter public schools "making money" while they profit off the public school system.

In December 2012, Michigan Association of School Administrators Executive Director William Mayes signed a letter that complained about "profiteers who will be allowed to take taxpayer dollars …" in public education. That letter was in response to 2012 legislation that would allow more charter schools.

However, MASA also makes money from its relationship with public schools. Traditional public school districts pay MASA dues every year. For example, the Lansing School District paid MASA $2,321 in annual dues in 2012-13.

Mayes total compensation was $214,112 in 2012.

In 2011, Kalamazoo Public Schools Superintendent Michael Rice was one of a dozen superintendents who signed a letter criticizing charter public schools and raising concerns about the "for profit" status of the management companies. 

Yet, the district has privatized some of its food and custodial services. In 2013, Rice had a base salary of $214,881 and a total compensation of $347,932. 

And a number of school districts in the state are using taxpayer money to fund political action that works to benefit themselves.

Gary Naeyaert, executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project, which is supportive of charter public schools, said Cook's comments were akin to "the pot calling the kettle black."

Naeyaert said there is a double standard among the critics of charter schools when it comes to finances in public education.

"A charter school that has any revenue in excess of expenses, that's dirty profits," Naeyaert said. "But a traditional school district that has a multimillion dollar fund balance, that is sound financial management. Their double standard and lack of consistency is frustrating, if not appalling."

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See also:

Defenders of Public School Monopoly Slam 'Big Profit' Competitors; Haul In Big Money For Themselves

Public Schools: 'Profit' Bad For Others, Good For Us

Administrator Group Rails Against Education 'Profiteers;' Makes Millions Off Schools

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