Friday, October 31, 2014

You HAVE to read this!

I was sitting watching TV with my husband a week or so ago.   One of those Snyder ads came on and they were telling we viewers that Snyder had actually paid money to into the retirement system.   My husband looked to me and said, "Is that true?"

I sat there for a minute.  If someone I’m married to can ask me that question ….and I’m not one to stay quiet….then, there are a whole lot of people listening to that ad and not bothering to ask, “is that true?”.

I am so passionate about the topic, I can not let this go unaddressed.  I am communicating with you member to member, and you can communicate this with other members and friends.  This Tuesday’s election will be one of the most important ever in the history of public education.  Our survival is dependent on it.  But first, I believe I need to address some of these financial claims made on TV by the Snyder group.

Let’s start with Mr. Snyder’s first year in office -  He did make over $1 billion dollars in cuts to the School State Aid Fund.   This amounted to $470 per student cut for Walled Lake!  That has NEVER been replaced.  There have been different ways over the last 3 years that our district could earn some of those funds back.  Remember “best practices” and “performance money”?  WLCSD has been able to meet “best practices” for two years, and we did get some “performance money” in one year, but not to the tune of $470.   Some years the government put money into the School State Aid Fund, but it went to community colleges.  Despite these bits of money over the years, they never stay as part of our state aid from year to year.  They are not accumulative.  They go away.  So, at the beginning of each new school year, we have $470 less per student than we had the year before Snyder’s cuts.

This past year Mr. Snyder says he put over $700,000 new dollars into education, but here’s how that worked out.   The “poorer” districts in the state received an extra $175 per student in state aid (this does not fill in the $470 hole from previous years).   Walled Lake was considered a “richer” district because we get about $8165 per student, so the state gave us an extra $50 per student.   Huron Valley, our neighbor, got the $175.  Farmington didn't get $175 per student, but Farmington’s state funding per student is closer to $10,000 compared to our $8100.  Just to measure ours against some other neighbors; Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham get over $11,000 per student, Southfield gets $10,800 per student and West Bloomfield get $8676.   Feeling “rich” yet?

Just to give you a few facts: 
In 2009 WLCSD’s per pupil payment amount was $8926.
In 2011, it was $8165
In 2013, it was $8195

In 2008 WLCSD’s total fund revenue was $162, 991,000
In 2013-2014, their total revenue was $153,954,661.

Fund Equity…..our district is spending plenty of its fund equity.
In 2012, the fund equity in Walled Lake was a little over $16 million
This year our fund equity is $8,383,329.  We have spent close to 8 million out of the fund equity to make up for lost state funding.  So, that could be considered a good thing.  Why save that much money?  However, that kind of spending cannot be sustained too much longer.

The next funding piece that the Snyder group brags about is when they say they have helped the school districts pay the retirement costs for teachers.  Honestly, they have, but there is WAY more to it.  In fact, it is a bit of a shell game.  To explain it I need to go back to the recent retirement reforms.

During the retirement reform year, all of us needed to go to our ORS Retirement Accounts with the state and make choices.  We had to agree to pay more to retain a 1.5% multiplier, and we had to agree to pay 3% to have a health care subsidy in retirement.   You could choose not to pay those things, but then your retirement income and healthcare would be figured in different ways and would be reduced.

In exchange for these INCREASED COSTS TO YOU, the state was going to lower the percentage of our incomes the school districts had to pay into the state retirement system themselves.  At the time, the schools were paying a bit over 26% into the system.  (the amount varies a bit because it is determined by how many teachers at any particular time are enrolled in the multiple different retirement plans that have different costs).    Well, the state did lower that amount to around 25%, not much of a savings.  However, they then raised it to 30%.    So, what the SNYDER group has done is that they send the school districts the extra 5% above the initial 25% charge in real dollars, but the next week the school districts are billed for that SAME 5%.   It is just money IN and money OUT.   The school districts don’t get to keep it!  And, the school districts are still paying the SAME 25% into the retirement system as they have in the past.   

Snyder then tells the state voters of the millions of dollars he is paying into the teacher retirement system.  He says he is "shoring it up",  and that this means the schools should have more money to spend on other things.   But this money being given to the districts is not money they have to spend.  They just send it back to the state.  There are no new savings on retirement costs for the districts.  They are still $470 down in per pupil funding…..they hope they can meet “best practices” requirements to get $50 more…..they are still paying 25% into the retirement system.

Snyder tells a story that distorts the truth.   The schools are being broken, caused to slowly fail, between funding cuts and new requirements.  If you are a teacher, you live this every day in your classrooms through increased class sizes, increased testing and curriculum, and you get very little if any extra support services for students who need help.

Can you live through another 4 years of these kinds of stories and mis-truths?  
Can your families continue to have you working day and night just to do the basics of your job because so much has been piled on?  
Has the education of Michigan’s children been improved by Snyder fiscal policies????  
Ask yourself, what will be the next move of a Snyder-based state government?   Will it make your situation better?

Please have no doubt, we need a new state government to be able to survive as an institution and as individuals.  TUESDAY!