News Story

Local School Union Claims Unfair Labor Practice, Cites Cuts That Weren’t

Teachers union says its members lost money, but don’t blame state taxpayers

The local teachers union at the Utica Community Schools district filed an unfair labor practice complaint this month against the district. The local arm of the Michigan Education Association claims that school employees there have lost $65 million in wages since 2011.

Michigan Radio reported: “That seems like a staggering amount of money, so let’s put it in context. In 2011, Governor Rick Snyder cut state funding for education, which resulted in an approximate $470 per-pupil funding cut statewide.”

The controversial $470 figure was the product of choices made by two successive administrations as the state was still reeling from the nation’s Great Recession. It applied to the state foundation allowance, which is the largest of several different revenue streams that pay for Michigan public school operations, and it represents money that follows students as they change schools. The foundation allowance is generally about 75% of the total number of state dollars a district receives.

But notably for Utica Community Schools in the 2010-11 fiscal year, the district actually received increased revenue from the state, even with the cut to the foundation allowance.

Figures come from the Michigan Department of Education show that the district received a total of $190.1 million from the state in 2009-10, when it enrolled 29,410 students. The next year, the district received $195.5 million in total state dollars, a $5.4 million increase, despite it having 173 fewer students.

This year, the district received $226.7 million in state money, and it had 26,883 students. So while the district is getting an extra $31.2 million this year compared to 2010-11, it also enrolls 2,354 fewer students than nine years ago.

Those numbers are not adjusted for inflation. If inflation is factored in, per-pupil funding (state dollars only) for Utica schools increased from $7,608 in 2010-11 to $8,431 in 2019-20.

The average teacher salary in Utica was $79,799 in 2017-18. A forthcoming article will describe the teacher pay situation as the unfair labor practice complaint makes its way through the process.