News Story

Teacher Of The Year An Advocate For Union And Public School Interests’ Dubious Claims

They advocate for more money and powers

The Michigan Department of Education states that its teacher of the year “serves as a representative and advocate for Michigan’s more than 90,000 teachers. ...”

A March 30 Detroit Free Press op-ed written by 2021-22 Teacher of the Year Leah Porter repeats many questionable assertions promoted by the state’s public school establishment and its unions.

For this reason, Michigan Capitol Confidential is performing fact checks on several claims made by Porter, who works for Holt Public Schools. This is the first installment.

Porter claimed, “Even prior to the pandemic, Michigan’s educational system was a cracking dam, with years of neglect and underfunding chipping away at its foundation.”

“Neglect and underfunding” are political claims. State spending on the public school establishment had increased for nine consecutive years, from 2012-13 to 2019-20.

Total K-12 public school funding in the 2012-2013 school year from all sources (local, state, and federal) was the equivalent of $15.76 billion in 2022 dollars. In the last school budget before the pandemic, which was for the 2019-20 school year, there was a total of $17.45 billion in inflation-adjusted school spending. These figures include federal money.

Federal pandemic dollars injected into the state budget in 2021 created a huge surplus. The 2020-21 K-12 budget included $7.87 billion in federal funding. For comparison, going back to 2000-01, the previous high water mark for federal funding for Michigan schools was $2.16 billion in 2008-09, which came in response to the subprime mortgage meltdown and financial crisis. From 2008-2011, Michigan’s K-12 education system received $6.4 billion (not adjusted for inflation) in federal funding. From 2019-22, the state’s K-12 system has received a total of $12.85 billion in federal funding.

The huge injection of federal dollars has pushed total K-12 funding (state and federal) to record levels. Total K-12 funding went from $14.81 billion in 2018-19 (the last year before the pandemic impacted schools) to $16.01 billion in 2019-20 and then $21.72 billion in 2020-21 and $16.98 billion in 2021-22. These numbers are not adjusted for inflation. There was a drop in total funding in 2021-22, but only because the unprecedented level of federal funding was not continued.

Porter has personally benefitted from the multiyear rise in spending, as have many other Michigan public school employees. Porter’s gross pay increased from $61,701 in 2013-14 to $82,596 in 2020-21.

The Holt school district that employs Porter has also benefitted from the growth in state support. While enrollment in Holt schools is down 13% since 2012-13, the district has nevertheless seen a 13% increase in real, after-inflation rise in state funding. This increase has come even as district enrollment has fallen. On a per-pupil basis, and again, after adjusting for inflation, the Holt district is getting about $666 more per pupil this year than it did in 2012-13.

These increases are not unique to Holt; most districts have seen comparable gains, and some much more.

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.