Some Teachers In This District In Line For 17 Percent Pay Hikes

But superintendent says his schools are underfunded

Gov. Rick Snyder presented his annual state budget recommendations to the Legislature on Feb. 7. They include a proposal to increase public school spending by $312 million, or as much as $240 per pupil. Reaction from school officials was mixed.

For example, the Livingston Daily News interviewed Fowlerville Community Schools Superintendent Wayne Roedel, who claimed his district has been underfunded for the past 10 years.

Roedel said Snyder’s recommendation would mean an increase of about $676,800 for 2018-19, based on an expected enrollment of 2,820 students. He added that the district’s current budget is running a deficit of about $200,000.

“We have been underfunded for the past 10 years,” said Roedel. “All employees, school programs and services have struggled. ... Whenever we get an increase in funding we have to decipher what our other costs are going to be so we can see what the net increase is going to be.”

Roedel said in an email to Michigan Capitol Confidential that when looking at funding in context with rising health insurance and retirement costs, underfunded is accurate.

“You are correct when you only look at the base per pupil foundation. Reporters like the positive PR and marketing angle. Headline: 'Public Schools Get More Money Again.' The question is, when we factor in health care increases, retirement cost increases, other operating cost increases like utilities, shifted categorical money and any meager employee wage increase during this time, I ask, was the funding enough to cover our known increases or were we underfunded? I contend underfunded is accurate,” Roedel wrote.

“My guess is that if you look at the percentage of foundation increase year after year it might be <1 to 1.5%. That would be underfunded in my mind since I know our costs have increased by at least twice that amount,” Roedel said. “When the Governor makes a proposal that is a 3% increase, and it's the largest in his tenure, that to me is under funding. When looking at a budget, please consider the expense side of the equation in the same way you consider revenue. Half a story may be misleading and/or a distortion.”

ForTheRecord says: Fowlerville Community Schools has enjoyed an increase in state funding since Snyder became governor in 2011, as have the vast majority of Michigan school districts.

Roedel mentioned state funding from 10 years ago. In 2007-08, the district received $20.9 million from the state (not including local or federal dollars). By 2016-17, this had risen by just $1.6 million, to $22.5 million.

Michigan public school funding is allocated on the basis of enrollment – money follows the student. From 2007-08 to 2016-17, Fowlerville’s enrollment had fallen by 287 students, to a total of 2,877. Fowlerville is getting significantly more, not less, from the state compared to 10 years ago, when funding is measured on a dollars-per-student basis.

Specifically, Fowlerville schools received $6,596 per pupil from the state in 2007-08, or $7,384 per pupil when adjusted for inflation. In 2016-17, Fowlerville received $7,816 per pupil, an increase of $432 per pupil after factoring in inflation.

Teacher salaries at Fowlerville have also risen recently, according to information provided by the state of Michigan and OpenTheBooks.com, a nonprofit that tracks public sector salaries.

One teacher who graduated from Michigan State University in 2014 and started with the district that year at a salary of $35,541 was up to $41,916 in 2016-17. That’s an 18 percent increase over a two-year period.

Fowlerville’s current contract with the teachers union includes seniority-based pay raises called “step increases.” Most step increases are for a raise of 4 to 5 percent, but going from the 10th to the 11th step brings a much larger raise. (A step generally equates to how many years of teaching experience a person has.)

According to the current union contract, a teacher with a bachelor's degree and 11 years of experience in 2017-18 would see a 17 percent increase this year, from $55,001 to $64,372.

Editor's note: This story was updated with Superintendent Roedel’s comments.

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.