News Story

Coleman Schools: 23 Percent Fewer Kids, 23 Percent More Spending Per Kid and One-Ninth the Average Health Co-Pay

Coleman School District has lost 23 percent of its students from 2000 to 2010, yet spending per pupil increased by 23.6 percent over that decade. The local teachers union president was part of a 450-person rally in Midland on Saturday protesting the $300 per pupil cuts proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder.

Nancy Robison, Coleman Education Association president, told the Midland Daily News: “They want us to improve education but they don’t want to help us pay for it. They want to cut and cut and cut so we have to cut teachers and all kinds of services for the kids. They’re saying, ‘Make it happen,’ and it’s getting to be impossible.”

Coleman, which is about 25 miles west of Midland, had 1,110 students in 2000, and that dropped to 847 in 2010. In 2011, student enrollment dropped even further to 802.

Meanwhile, the district’s general fund expenditures were $7.2 million in 2000 (based on $6,506 per pupil payments) and $6.8 million in 2010 (based on $8,047 per pupil).

Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said schools that lose a quarter of their students should expect to make budget cuts.

“When you are consistently losing students year after year after year, you have to start downsizing at some point,” Van Beek said. “It doesn’t look like they are doing that. … They say they’ve been cutting and cutting and cutting. Well, that is exactly what you should expect when you lose nearly 25 percent of your enrollment. They need to lay off employees and lay off teachers because they don’t have enough students.”

Teachers in the Coleman School District pay 3 percent of the cost of their health insurance. By way of comparison, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that for all Michigan employers who provide a health care plan to their employees, the average co-pay expected of the employee is 21 percent. The national average is 27 percent — nine times higher than what is expected in the Coleman School District.

Teachers with 11 years or less of service received varying levels of raises in 2010-11.

For example, a teacher with a master’s degree and four years of service was paid $39,932 in 2009-10 and saw that increase to $42,513 this year, a 6.4 percent increase.

About 35 percent of the teachers in the Coleman district had masters’ degrees. A teacher with a bachelor’s degree and 18 credits with three years of service was paid $35,783 in 2009-10. This year, that teacher’s salary would increase 6.5 percent to $38,112.

From June 2000 to June 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Michigan lost nearly 753,972 jobs – more than 15 percent of the state’s employment. The latest BLS records for March 2011 show 487,403 people still unemployed and a total labor force that has shrunk by 392,455 workers since June 2000.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.