While the Michigan Education Association tries to get its members to vote for Rich Perlberg, its endorsed candidate in the 42nd House District GOP primary, he openly rejects the union’s most often repeated campaign mantra.
“I do not believe education spending is down in Michigan; it is up,” Perlberg, a retired newspaper general manager and editor, told Capitol Confidential. “The only way they (the MEA) can say that it is down is by factoring in the federal stimulus money from previous years. If you’re talking about what the state spends on education, it has gone up. I don’t agree with what the MEA is saying about spending.”
In spite of the fact that in actual dollars Michigan’s K-12 spending has gone up $661 per pupil since Gov. Rick Snyder took office, the MEA, which is the state’s largest teachers union, claims education spending has declined. That $661 figure doesn’t include the new increase going in effect on Oct. 1.
In spite of Michigan’s one-state recession throughout most of the 2001-2010 decade, it still ranks between 22nd and 26th (depending on adjustments) among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in per-pupil spending, and 8th when adjusted for per capita income, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“Actually, I don’t agree with MEA on a lot of things,” Perlberg said. “When I filled out their (MEA’s) questionnaire I said I disagreed with them on 13 of the 16 issues. But my understanding is that a couple of my opponents wouldn’t even talk with them. I guess the MEA preferred someone who was at least willing to listen to them.”
“Looking at our editorials from when I was with the newspaper (the Livingston County Daily Press and Argus) no one would ever have guessed I’d get an MEA endorsement,” Perlberg added. “I never thought I would. But now that I have it, I see it as a strong point.”
Michigan’s 42nd House District is located within Livingston County. Based on the turnouts in the 2008 and 2010 elections it has a 63 percent Republican base. There are four Republicans vying in 42nd House District primary. They are: Nick Fiani, Dale Rogers, Lana Theis and Perlberg.
In some district races where Democratic candidates have little chance of winning, the MEA has endorsed Republicans. Apparently the union would rather back a possible winner with whom it feels at least somewhat comfortable than back an almost-certain loser.
The MEA’s political action committee not only endorsed a Republican, Henry Vaupel, in the 47th House District, which is also in Livingston County, but openly encouraged Democrats to cross over and vote for Vaupel.
In the 42nd, the union is only encouraging “MEA members” to vote for Perlberg, arguing that “the future of public education is a stake.”
The MEA did not respond to a request for comment.