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

School Districts Copying Each Other's Homework While Calling Increased Funding a 'Cut'

Farmington superintendent calls $50 per-pupil increase a '$335,000 loss'

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Farmington Public Schools Superintendent Susan Zurvalec said in a June 13 letter to parents that a $50 per-pupil increase in the school's foundation allowance "means another $335,000 loss for Farmington Public Schools …”

There are now two superintendents in Oakland County claiming an increase in funding somehow translates to an overall loss of revenue for the district. Walled Lake Consolidated Superintendent Kenneth Gutman made a similar claim recently.

For Farmington Public Schools, Zurvalec appears to come to the loss by taking the $83 per-pupil foundation allowance increase the district had budgeted to receive and factored how much less the district received with the $50 increase. The district had 10,871 students in 2013-14. Fifty dollars more per student translates to additional $543,550 for the year.

Zurvalec did not respond to requests for comment.

"Show me one other industry where getting an increase, but not as much as you wanted, is considered a cut," said Audrey Spalding, education policy director of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

In the letter, Zurvalec stated that the district has reduced its budget by $65 million since 2002.

According to the district's audit and budget documents, the district's expenses have been reduced by $7 million, dropping from $152.8 million in 2002 to $145.8 million in 2013.

The letter Zurvalec sent has a striking similarity to the letter sent by Walled Lake Superintendent Gutman.

Zurvalec ended her letter with this paragraph: "While this week's reductions are difficult, our challenges are even more significant with this recent news from the State. We are, and will continue to be, an incredible school district, and we will face these trying times as a collaborative, caring community."

Gutman ended his letter on his district's budget with a nearly identical ending.

Gutman wrote: "While last week's reductions are difficult, our challenges are even more significant with this recent news from the State. We are, and will continue to be, an incredible school district and we will face these trying times as a collaborative, caring community." 

"Who's copying whose homework?" said Kyle Olson, founder of Education Action Group, a non-profit organization that promotes education reform and has its headquarters in Michigan. "The cuts are so dramatic that they can't even take the time to write their own letter? Instead, it appears they are just using a form letter that someone generated to communicate their situation. It's part of an overall political public relations campaign that they deserve some more money."

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See also:

School District's Math Doesn't Add Up

Coverage Of School Districts Claiming Cuts