News Story

Former Teacher Now Legislator Claims ‘Massive School Disinvestment’

But her old district is getting much more

Dayna Polehanki is one of a handful of teachers across the country who have received recognition for leaving their profession to pursue politics.

Polehanki was elected as a Democratic member of the Michigan Senate last fall and recently wrote a commentary for Bridge Magazine and the Traverse City Record-Eagle, claiming there was a “massive disinvestment” in K-12 education, beginning in 2010.

“As a public high school English teacher for nearly two decades, I’ve seen firsthand how things have changed for the worse for Michigan’s schools and students over the past nine years,” she wrote.

Very nearly the opposite happened, however.

That can be seen by looking at the funding received by Polehanki’s former employer, New Haven Community Schools.

From 2008-09 to 2018-19, New Haven Community Schools has seen its enrollment drop from 1,377 to 1,251. Yet despite a decrease of 126 students, state funding [only state dollars, not including local or federal dollars] of the district increased —from $6.39 million in 2008-09 to $8.40 million in 2018-19. On a per-student basis, state aid to New Haven Community Schools rose from $5,449 per pupil to $6,718, or the equivalent of a $1,269 per-pupil increase even after adjusting for inflation.

School districts, including New Haven, have had to use some of their increased funding to cover the rising costs of the state-run pension system that their employees benefit from. New Haven’s contribution to the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System increased from $1.09 million in 2009 to $1.63 million in 2019.

Polehanki didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.