Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) finally sent the last 6 budget bills to Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D). He had been holding them for nearly 3 weeks in a political gambit to pressure the Governor to sign the bills without vetos, a holier-than-thou approach. The schools funding bill was presented earlier, however, due to the federal funds deadline.
While signing the K-12 schools budget, Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) used her line item veto authority to cut $53 million from the schools budget. The bill agreed to by the Michigan Senate and House chops $165 per student from every district. Granholm vetoed an additional $51.5 million in funds for the highest paid districts in the state.
Although I realize the K-12 funding cuts happened halfway into their budget year, I’m having a hard time feeling sorry for the affected districts. What they’ve lost is the money above the base; they’re still getting the $7,316 every district gets per pupil. On average, the top 6 got more than an additional $1,900 per pupil on top of the base grant last year. It’s that extra money that Granholm vetoed, not any base funding. The legislature cut $165 per pupil from every district.
It’s conceivable Granholm’s move will force tax or revenue increases. But Bishop says whatever the Governor vetoes will just remain unfunded. Meanwhile, Bishop wants to pretend the whole budget drama is a Democratic issue, but he just sent the last 6 budget bills to Granholm.
Here’s the rub. On average, Michigan schools spend less than 50% on teachers. That’s according to the Mackinaw Center, but it’s consistent with a Detroit News or Free Press article from a few years ago. I’ve tried to latch on to it; as I remember my district spent only about 40% on instructional costs. As pathetic as that is, it feeds right into my belief school systems have become bureaucracies unto themselves. In general, districts are distracted by ancillary services at the expense of their core missions.
Just like politicians tend to cut police and fire for the sensationalism, we’re seeing a similar approach to education. Funding cuts tend to impact where the real work gets done. For schools, the validity is in the veracity of the nunbers.