News Story

Unions Praise Governor’s Modest School Funding Hike, Rebuked GOP Predecessor’s Much Larger One

5.1% GOP increase got union ‘tsk tsks,’ a 2.3% Dem hike applauded

When it comes to the ongoing debates involving funding for Michigan’s public schools, the state’s two largest teachers unions sometimes appear to let politics take priority over getting the numbers right.

For instance, after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gave her second State-of-the-State address a week ago, both unions praised the Democratic governor for her desire to increase school spending. But at the same time, they implied that her Republican predecessor had dropped the ball on funding.

For example, the Michigan Education Association has often repeated the erroneous claim that former Gov. Rick Snyder cut $1 billion from school funding in 2013 and 2014.

While the first school aid budget, Whitmer signed appropriated $13.42 billion in state dollars for K-12 schools, this represents a fairly modest 2.77% increase from last budget approved by her Republican predecessor, which expired last Sept. 30.

The MEA wrote on its website, “For too long, because of inaction and a refusal to invest in our schools, we’ve continued to fall behind — despite the best efforts of frontline educators to do more with less.” On Jan. 30, MEA President Paula Herbart said on the website, “Gov. Whitmer showed again tonight that she understands that – and is committed to taking action that advances public education for all students.”

The state’s other big teachers union, AFT-Michigan, also praised Whitmer. In a statement released following Whitmer’s speech, the union said:

“From her first day in office to her second State of the State address and into the future, there’s no doubt Governor Whitmer is committed to education at all levels. She has championed investments in early childhood education and the Great Start Readiness Program and we applaud her push for a K-12 funding structure that ensures resources reach students based on their needs. Governor Whitmer has the back of educators across Michigan and we look forward to partnering with her to make Michigan a leader in public education across the board.”

These positive remarks about very modest progress from the unions’ point of view stand in sharp contrast to their far more tempered statements about a more substantial school funding increase approved by two years earlier. In July 2017, Gov. Rick Snyder approved the 5.1% increase in state K-12 funding sent to him by the Republican-led Legislature. The budget increased state funding for schools from $12.32 billion in the 2016-17 fiscal year to $12.96 billion the next year.

“AFT Michigan is pleased to see some education funding increases in the governor’s budget, but there are still some major concerns with what was rolled out today,” AFT-Michigan President David Hecker said in February 2017 on the union’s website. “We know that K12 funding in Michigan is not enough and not equitable across the state based on recent studies, and this budget does not adequately address those short falls.”

The MEA was similarly begrudging in its praise.

“Gov. Rick Snyder unveiled a budget proposal on Wednesday that includes modest education spending increases for fiscal year 2018,” the union wrote on Feb. 9, 2017. “While MEA welcomes the governor’s commitment to increasing funding for K-12 students and higher education, more is needed to implement the aggressive new third grade reading requirements and to address chronic underfunding issues identified in a state report last year.”