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

K-12 funding in Michigan

A significant number of Michigan residents are wrong about school spending under Gov. Rick Snyder, according to the results from a recent poll.

The issue is important because Democrat Mark Schauer has made education spending a key piece of his campaign for governor and repeatedly has erroneously said Gov. Snyder has cut education spending by $1 billion.

State funding for K-12 education has increased since Gov. Snyder took office.

Nonetheless, a March 14 poll reported that 53.8 percent of respondents said they thought Gov. Snyder had decreased spending, while 18 percent said they thought the governor had increased spending.

The survey, which was done by Denno Research and was paid for by Lambert, Edwards & Associates, asked this question: "In the three years that Governor Rick Snyder has been in office, do you think he overall has increased or decreased spending for K-12 schools?"

The poll questioned 233 Democrats, 145 Independents and 189 Republicans and another 33 people who were unsure of their political affiliation.

According to the Senate Fiscal Agency, overall state funding for K-12 education has increased every year under Gov. Snyder. That includes his first budget when he allocated more state money for K-12 education than former Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

State funding for K-12 education was at $10.8 billion in Gov. Granholm's last budget in 2010-11. State funding jumped to $11.08 billion in Gov. Snyder's first budget in 2011-12 and then increased to $11.21 billion in 2012-13 and $11.6 billion in 2013-14.

Yet Schauer, the Michigan Education Association and some others have been claiming that Gov. Snyder cut funding to public education, which the Detroit Free Press said was not accurate.

In January, Schauer erroneously claimed on WJR radio that an increase in funding to K-12 schools under Gov. Snyder was due to more federal dollars. 

Federal dollars have dropped from $2.17 billion in Gov. Granholm’s last budget in 2010-11 to $1.65 billion in Gov. Snyder’s first budget and then increased to $1.7 billion and $1.76 billion the next two years.

Since then, critics of Gov. Snyder have shifted their debate to whether the extra money Gov. Snyder was allocating for K-12 schools was "getting into the classroom."

The state spent $564 million in 2012-13 and 2013-14 to cover the school employees' retirement costs in the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System. Many Democrats don't believe paying teachers' benefits is a classroom expense.

Still, the perception among residents, according to the poll, is that K-12 school funding has been reduced.

"Politicians like Mark Schauer keep repeating the false 'they cut schools' claim, probably betting their simplistic bumper sticker line could trump a truth that requires a full paragraph to convey," said Jack McHugh, senior legislative analyst for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. "Meanwhile, the alleged budget cutters in the Snyder administration have not done all they could to get the facts out."

Sara Wurfel, a spokeswoman for Gov. Snyder, did not respond to a request for comment.

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See also:

School Districts Insiste They Need More Money To Educate Fewer Students

Narrative Changing On Michigan K-12 Education Spending

Democrats Selectively Considering Pension Benefits In Education Funding

Like a Broken Record, MEA Complains About 'Insufficient Funds'

Pension Costs Mean Tighter Budgets For Taxpayers, Classrooms

Advocates of More Education Spending Ignoring Billions In Other Funds

The $2 Billion Education Funding Myth

Reality Check: Michigan Public Schools Getting More Money For Fewer Students

Michigan Schools Never Saw a $1 Billion Cut

Despite Fewer Students, Michigan School Funding Going Up, Up, Up

Michigan School Districts In Perpetual 'Funding Crisis'