Snyder claims education spending is up

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Republican Gov. Rick Snyder drew the ire of numerous Democrats and education groups last month when he said K-12 spending is up $660 per student since he took office.

The bunch at the Hits were also taken aback by the guv’s confidence in his assessment, especially considering dozens of districts across the state are reeling from budget deficits, in part due to a $400 trim in the state’s per-pupil foundation grant.

But, Snyder says, his administration has poured resources into paying down teachers’ pension funds, a move that, he says, still assists the classrooms.

“If someone showed up to help pay your mortgage, doesn’t that give you more dollars to pay your other bills?” Snyder asked the Associated Press. “So that’s the point — it really does help the classroom by helping pay a bill that they’re otherwise going to have to pay and reducing that bill.”

But the state had a role in the teachers’ pension fund gap too, says Jason Gillespie of the Ferndale Education Association.

“As the Republicans have lifted the cap on charters, this exacerbates the unfunded retirement liabilities the state is facing, although Democrats are guilty of embracing the charter movement too, just not to the same extent,” he tells the Hits by email. “The reason this is a problem is because charter school teachers are not part of the public school retirement program [Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System]. This further depletes the pool of working people contributing to the state pension plan. Add to that the retirement of the baby boomers and the declining population in the state and you have a recipe for disaster.”

Gillespie, who serves as the bargaining chairperson of the Ferndale Education Association, has been deep in talks with Ferndale Public Schools’ administration recently, as the district faces a $2 million budget shortfall. Teachers in the district are facing possible mid-year layoffs, he says.

The Freep and MLive determined overall spending on education is up since Snyder took office, but, as Gillespie put it, if our lawmakers could dig a little deeper, maybe they would determine the source of the unfunded liabilities issue. The governor’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year restores about $100 of the per-pupil foundation, but some critics say it doesn’t go far enough.

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