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MEA Economist Ignores Billions In Education Spending

'The Truth About Funding' video repeats union's inaccurate claims

Beier (Courtesy of the city of East Lansing)

A Michigan Education Association video that says schools are getting less money under Gov. Rick Snyder does not tell the whole truth about education funding.

In the video, "The Truth About Funding," MEA labor economist Ruth Beier repeats the union's inaccurate claim that school funding is lower today than before Gov. Snyder took office. Never mind that the non-partisan Senate Fiscal Agency reports that the state has increased state funding for K-12 schools.

School funding and number of students in Michigan.

In the video, Beier cites a reduction in per-pupil revenue and says: "Let me give you the facts …" But she proceeds to cite only money from the per-pupil foundation allowance, which is only a portion of the funding a school district receives from the state. In some cases, the foundation allowance is only about half of the total revenue schools receive.

Beier used the Lansing School District as an example to try to make her case.

The Lansing School District received about $63.3 million from the state foundation allowance in 2013-14. Beier ignores about another $19 million the state give the Lansing School District in 2013-14 for expenses such as special education, adult education and payments for the district's employee retirement costs. The state made a $5 million payment this school year to Lansing for the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System.

Beier did not respond to a request for comment asking why she only included the lower per-pupil foundation allowance in her presentation. But it is a common tactic used by many of Gov. Snyder's critics. 

"The math is simple," Beier says in the video.

Actually, experts have said repeatedly it's not simple. That's because school funding is based on more than just the per-pupil foundation allowance that Beier cites.

For example, the Lansing School District received $8,929 per pupil in 2013-14 if all the state funding is factored in. The district received $8,742 per student overall in 2010-11, which was the final budget of Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Meanwhile, the district has lost about 1,375 students in those three years.

"The MEA is well known for only telling part of the story because it's easier to mislead people that way," said Ari Adler, communications director for Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall. "The reality is that state funding for K-12 has been increasing during the past few years, even while pupil counts were decreasing. …Basing numbers on only a single part of the funding available is fuzzy math and something I hope isn't being taught to kids in Michigan’s schools."

Adler said that according to the non-partisan House Fiscal Agency, the proposed School Aid Fund budget that funds K-12 education was $10.675 billion in 2010-11 and has increased every year under Gov. Snyder to the proposed $11.973 billion in the 2014-15 budget.

"Besides, as has been shown time and again, per-pupil funding is a poor measure of success for kids in Michigan," Adler said. "The now defunct Highland Park school district was receiving more than $14,000 per pupil in total state and federal funding and yet it was a dismal failure when it came to educating the students in that city."

Beier also serves as a councilmember for the city of East Lansing.

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See also:

Which Michigan School Districts Pay The Most?

States Spending Less Money On K-12 Education Getting Better Results

Michigan School Funding Up, Results Flat

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

A 'Crisis' That Never Ends

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'

Michigan Outspends Florida on Education But Does Worse Than The Sunshine State