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School where Mich. governor’s child attends can’t get by on $20K tuition


As the debate over deep cuts to the state’s per pupil allowance in education funding continues, Greenhills School in Ann Arbor has released a fundraising video in which school officials say the $20,000 per year tuition per student is not enough to keep the school running.

The video features students and faculty from the school, where Gov. Rick Snyder sends his daughter, reading from a script and saying that money raised from an annual auction was necessary to keep the school going. One student, who is not identified, says, “Tuition alone does not cover the costs of a Greenhills education.”

The video asks viewers to consider a donation of “$10,000, $500 or $50″ to help the school defray the school’s operational costs.

At the same time that the school to which Snyder sends his own child can’t make ends meet with funding of $20,000 per pupil, the governor recently pushed through and signed legislation that cuts per pupil public school funding by $370 per student, bringing state funding to $6,846 per student. Some schools could qualify for an additional $100 per student if they adopt what Snyder and GOP lawmakers call “best practices.” Those practices include reducing employee costs by forcing an increase in insurance cost sharing and privatizing or consolidating some services.

The state funding is not the only source of public school funds, of course. In the 2009-2010 school year, districts saw total per pupil funding anywhere between $11,439 at the high end and $8,080 on the low end of funding, a spreadsheet from the Michigan Education Association shows. The numbers were pulled from state of Michigan documents, said Don Noble, appropriations lobbyist for the MEA.

Messenger asked MEA’s Doug Pratt, the group’s communications director, what funding per pupil at $20,000 would mean for education in Michigan.

“That level of funding would allow for small class sizes, advanced and well-rounded course offerings, sufficient textbooks/supplies/technology, top-notch teacher training, student support services and more -– all things that are essential to providing a world class education. $20,000 per student is a lot closer to what we should be spending on public education than where we are today,” Pratt said in email.

When asked how public schools can be expected to operate on the per pupil allocations approved by the legislature, when the school Gov. Rick Snyder sends his daughter to can’t make it on $20,000 per pupil, Snyder Communications Director Geralyn Lasher responded:

“The Snyders have nothing to do with the organization of this fund drive and are not involved in the planning or delivery of the campaign. Any questions about the school or their efforts should be directed to Greenhills.

As for per-pupil funding, the Governor has stated time and again that cuts to education were very difficult to make and he was pleased to reduce the cut to K-12 to effectively less than $100 per pupil. As he has discussed the need to put the fiscal situation in order in the state and experience growth and increased revenues, there will be time in the future to look to education and see what types of increases in funding can be made. Focusing on the growth of students during the year is also crucial to seeing improvements in student performance. When only 16% of high school students who graduate are “college-ready” as a state we have to look at the entire education system and not just funding in order to change that figure to 100% of high school graduates who are college-ready and career-ready.”

So how bad are the cuts going to be? The Bay City Times reports that nine area schools superintendents have sent an open letter to Gov. Rick Snyder criticizing the cuts.

Many of the schools have forecast a reduction in funding over $1 million, while the Bay City Schools are bracing for a loss of $10 million under the newly minted education funding, the Times reports.

Echoing a letter from the Ithaca Schools chief Nathan Bootz in which, tongue firmly placed in cheek, he asked the governor to make his school system a prison; the area schools point out the costs of prisoners vs. education funding for kids:

“The State of Michigan spends over four times the cost of one student’s education to incarcerate one single person is prison,” reads the memo from the nine school leaders. “As Superintendents we believe in a safe community, but we also support a strong education system that meets the needs of your children.”

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