Flagrant foul to teachers group for video bashing Snyder

How we make the call

Flagrant foul

A false statement about a candidate’s position or a fact involving policy. It’s one thing to point out differences between records. It’s another for a candidate or third-party group to present false information or inaccurately portray a candidate’s political record.

Regular foul

A statement that distorts a candidate’s record or a fact involving policy, or which omits a fact that is essential to understanding a candidate’s position.

Warning

A statement that may be generally truthful, but lacks context and could easily mislead or be misconstrued.

No foul

A statement, however strident, that is based on accurate facts.

Who: Michigan Education Association
What: Web video “Repeal the Snyder cuts to our schools”
The Call: Flagrant Foul

Relevant text of the ad:

“By now, we’ve all heard the facts. Rich CEOs and corporate special interests got a $1.8 billion tax break, paid for by cuts to local schools. Gov. Rick Snyder and Republicans in Lansing gave a huge tax break to big banks, insurance companies, oil companies; rewarding CEOs with big bonuses and making it harder for our kids to compete for jobs. Snyder and Republicans in Lansing have forced cuts to music education, cuts to athletics, cuts to the arts. The Republican cuts have shut down swim programs, pushing local school districts underwater while Gov. Snyder has made sure CEOs are swimming in money. The Republican cuts are forcing overcrowded classrooms, forcing teachers to spend thousands of dollars out of pocket for basic school supplies like books and pencils, and making parents pick up the tab for everything from band to baseball. So when Republicans in Lansing come begging for your support this year, tell them you support our kids, not CEOs...”

This 81-second video by the Michigan Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, employs slapstick and satire to take on GOP Gov. Rick Snyder and his role in funding K-12 education in Michigan. The MEA backs former Democratic U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer in his bid to deny Snyder a second term as governor.

In the opening scene, children in band uniforms step to the door of what looks like a rich homeowner/business executive and hand him a paper with the words “Save Our School Band.” He shakes his head in disgust and hands it back. In another scene, three corporate fat cats – one in a cowboy hat – ride in a stretch limo, drinking champagne and laughing raucously. One blows cigar smoke out the window while two kids stand in front of the state capitol, one with a cardboard sign that reads “Our Schools Need $$$ Please Help.” In another, a man in a suit pitches a baseball at the head of a child batter while the voiceover talks about parents being forced to pay for their children’s baseball and band to make up for shortfalls in education funding.

Statements under review:

“By now, we’ve all heard the facts. Rich CEOs and corporate special interests got a $1.8 –billion tax break...Gov. Rick Snyder and Republicans in Lansing gave a huge tax break to big banks, insurance companies, oil companies, rewarding CEOs with big bonuses...”

In 2011, Snyder pushed through legislation that repealed the Michigan Business Tax and replaced it with a 6 percent corporate tax levied on businesses that file as “C” corporations under federal tax law, but exempted most small businesses. Analysis by the Senate Fiscal Committee calculated that it would amount to a $1.65 billion tax cut for business in 2012-2013.

Contrary to the video’s claim, the legislation did not reward CEOs with bonuses. Supporting documentation offered by the MEA refered to an AFL-CIO report that found CEO pay in Michigan in 2013 ranged as high as $24.5 million with an average pay of $5.6 million. But even if those numbers are accurate, they do not support the CEO bonus claim. It’s one thing to say that lower business taxes will likely improve the bottom line for CEO’s, it’s quite another to claim that the legislation itself “reward(ed) CEOs with big bonuses.”

“Snyder and Republicans in Lansing have forced cuts to music education, cuts to athletics, cuts to the arts. The Republican cuts have shut down swim programs, pushing local school districts underwater while Gov. Snyder has made sure CEOs are swimming in money. The Republican cuts are forcing overcrowded classrooms, forcing teachers to spend thousands of dollars out of pocket for basic school supplies like books and pencils, making parents pick up the tab for everything from band to baseball.”

Snyder's 2011-2012 K-12 school aid budget – his first – cut $930 million in school aid spending in comparison to the previous year, according to state Senate Fiscal Agency analysis. It cut the minimum foundation allowance by $470 per student. But offsetting that it also added one-time appropriations that totaled $455 million, including $154 million to eligible “best practices” districts and $288 million to offset teacher retirement costs. Since then, Snyder has increased funding for schools. In his January 2014 State of the State address, he calculated that per pupil spending had increased by $660 per pupil since he took office. Analysis by former House Fiscal Agency Director Mitch Bean tells a more complicated story.

In looking at total state spending per pupil and dividing it by the number of pupils, Bean found that it comes out to $6,884 in fiscal 2011-2012 and $7,545 in fiscal 2014 – a difference of $661. Of that, $439 was due to state spending and $222 to a decrease in the number of students, Bean found.

In many financially stressed districts, the state's foundation allowance has not matched revenue losses tied to sharp enrollment drops. Bean also noted that Snyder counts spending for teacher retirement costs – a total of $973 million over three years – in his calculations of per-pupil school aid. Not all of that makes its way into the classroom. Overall, the minimum effective foundation allowance has remained flat since Snyder took office in 2011, standing at $7,146 in fiscal 2010-2011 and $7,187 for 2014-2014.

The ad cites cuts in everything from music education, to athletics, as Grand Rapids Public Schools look at making parents pay for sports to help close a $13.5 million deficit. In Lansing, school officials cut 87 jobs – including elementary art, music and physical education teachers – to make up for a $9 million budget deficit. Ann Arbor Public Schools closed five middle school pools to help close a budget deficit. There are numerous reports of teachers paying out of their own pockets for school supplies. The video draws a cause-and-effect link between the Snyder tax changes and cuts to sports, band and other programs that local districts have made in tough fiscal times. Plenty of districts are running deficits and making cuts to programs as a result; but the causes of these cuts at the local level are many and complex and certainly involve factors beyond policies enacted by Snyder.

The call: Flagrant Foul

It is not disputed that Snyder cut taxes for business while cutting funding for K-12 when he first took office, and plenty of critics have juxtaposed those choices to accuse the governor of putting CEOs before schoolchildren. Voters may differ on the fairness of that charge, but at least it is based on facts. That was not enough for the folks behind this video, however. This video flatly states that Snyder’s tax changes rewarded CEOs with “big bonuses.” That goes beyond hyperbole and into the realm of cynical, pandering fiction.

Snyder cut K-12 funding in his first school budget but has approved increases since then. It is also true that districts from Grand Rapids to Ann Arbor to Lansing have been forced to make sharp budget cuts because state aid has not offset rising expenses and revenue loss due to declining enrollment. That is as much an indictment of a school aid funding system that no longer works for districts that have suffered steep enrollment drops as it is the cuts stemming from Snyder's education priorities. A 2013 research brief shared with the State Board of Education warned that Michigan’s school funding system is in crisis 20 years after Proposal A reformed school funding. It found it was due to factors including declining enrollment, competition from charter and cyber schools, the growing cost of pensions and an overall decline in state funding over a decade.

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Comments

s.melvin
Wed, 09/10/2014 - 12:08pm
Hello What do you call BONUS ? ceo hired by Gov. Snyder . from out of STATE of Michigan ...salary form $ 157 000 to $300 000 U of M .... public University ( School) /uni bonus to CEO up to $ 450 000 etc etc .
Jim Storey
Wed, 09/10/2014 - 12:13pm
If teachers can't tell the truth when the whole world is watching a TV advertisement, think about the mistruths that are being fed students in Michigan's public school classrooms 5 days a week?
Ken K
Wed, 09/10/2014 - 3:43pm
Real nice there Jim, Use a political ad written and produced by outside consultants to attack classroom teachers! That's a flagrant foul! It seems that the Radical Right Wing Tea Party Republicans now in control of the Michigan State Legislature got there though the support coming from voters who believe what the Koch Brothers Americans for Progress and other groups tell them and vote to keep people in power who protect the wealthy and tax the middle class. As for me, I received a 100% increase in taxes on my pension (from 0% to 4+%) from Tricky Ricky and the Radical Republicans to pay for ending taxes on businesses. The Republicans will never receive another vote from me and I'm a registered Republican! Wake up Jim, vote your interests for a change instead of those of the Oklahoma Oil Men (the Koch's)!
KBL57
Thu, 09/11/2014 - 10:31am
KenK's response is both humorous and sad. Humorous because it's full of the left's bogeymen, from those evil radical right-wing tea partiers to the Koch Brothers...as if the Koch Brothers are behind the curtain pulling the strings of the Great Oz/Snyder. Classic! But such stereotypical hyperbole is sad because it's so shallow. Easy yes. Thoughtful? Not so much. Then we get to the real issue: "As for me, I received a 100% increase in taxes on my pension (from 0% to 4+%) from Tricky Ricky and the Radical Republicans to pay for ending taxes on businesses." A couple of questions: 1. Why should MI retirees pay no MI income tax on pension income? 2. Which piece of legislation "ended taxes on businesses?" Ironically, KenK whines about republicans protecting the wealthy and ending taxes on businesses while simultaneously arguing that he should not have to pay taxes on his pension income. Pot, meet Mr. Kettle.
B-man
Thu, 09/11/2014 - 4:44pm
Actually, the Koch Brothers ARE pulling the strings from behind the curtain. When you spend nearly a BILLION DOLLARS on elections on the federal, state and local levels -- all across America -- you are indeed acting like a shadowy figure who is manipulating voters with misleading information and negative emotional rhetoric. Wake up, oh brainwashed one. Sometimes the truth is so painfully obvious that people who want to deny it simply call it "shallow." There are none so blind as those that will not see. Campaign contributions need to be limited -- it is NOT free speech. Its become VERY EXPENSIVE SPEECH, that only the super-rich can afford to do at a massive scale -- exactly like the Kook Brothers.
DD
Wed, 09/10/2014 - 12:27pm
Come on, connect the dots: funding for public education was cut; educators and other’s retirements were taxed which corporation taxes were reduced and CEO’s received bonus. As the saying goes “no harm—no foul.” In this case there was clearly harm to the working class!!
DF
Wed, 09/10/2014 - 3:43pm
TO DD You come on. Why shouldn't public employees be taxed like us in private industry? Fair is fair.
Nick
Wed, 09/10/2014 - 12:28pm
While the Governor and the Legislature did not SPECIFICALLY call for CEO windfalls and specific school program cuts, they can't escape responsibility for the fact that these were the result of their policies. Republicans committed the flagrant foul when they claimed businesses would use the tax cut to create jobs.
Kswan
Wed, 09/10/2014 - 12:53pm
Both sides are liberal in how they define what has happen with cuts in school funding and tax cuts for business. Both sides are playing with the truth which is really frustrating for voters.
Helena
Wed, 09/10/2014 - 1:01pm
Why is no one making the connection between declining enrollment and the number of children in charter schools?
client1958
Wed, 09/17/2014 - 7:11pm
The most common answer would be. The MEA is an organization that would rather lie and blame the Republican party.
Bob Atallo
Wed, 09/10/2014 - 1:02pm
From the article: " A 2013 research brief shared with the State Board of Education warned that Michigan’s school funding system is in crisis 20 years after Proposal A reformed school funding. It found it was due to factors including declining enrollment, competition from charter and cyber schools, the growing cost of pensions and an overall decline in state funding over a decade." How do you argue that none of these factors are Snyders fault? Maybe not all, but certainly some. I think you made the case that the ad is TRUE
David Zeman
Wed, 09/10/2014 - 4:19pm
You are right that parts of some or most of these can be credibly attributed to Snyder policies, but you can also credibly apportion much of this to other factors as well and not solely to the current governor.
John Porter
Wed, 09/10/2014 - 1:10pm
Snyder was kinder to community colleges than the MTA dominated school districts. I agree with that, at this time. Also, when you talk about cuts, you have to consider the fiscal position of the State budget. To go deeper into deficit, or cut other state programs more to keep education funding level would have been totally irresponsible. I thought he did a nice job in a tight spot. You could argue who drove the auto industry and the national economy into the hole, but the damage was done before Snyder came into office. He used strong soap to clean up the mess, but it was a big mess. We aren't out of it yet either, but we know Snyder will take a businesslike approach, rather than just party line politics. The reason I say that is that 1) helping Detroit and 2) pushing Obamacare compliant legislation wasn't popular with his Republican base. I'm not saying anything against his opponent, but I'm with Snyder.
S Smewing
Wed, 09/10/2014 - 1:16pm
If one uses the logic that the MEA is using in their statement, we should never raise the spending on education. The MEA says business tax cuts went straight to CEO bonuses, therefore using the same logic increased spending on education would go straight to school superintendents. I can not see an valid argument that could be made to say that their statement is not just as absurd as the one I made with their logic. Further, read with me hear... businesses do not pay taxes. Taxes are included in the cost of goods sold. Business 101 teaches us that and it is an inescapable fact. Taxes are a manageable expense and as such are a clear and certain factor to how a business conducts itself. Lets look at an everyday example everyone can understand. If you are of driver and you like most have to refuel your vehicle you have choices to make. Your everyday type of choice is where to buy gas. It's actually a simple choice for most of use, lowest price per gallon and a convenient location. It is easy to see that the lower your fuel prices, expenses. the higher the amount you get to keep. This could be called your microeconomic choices. For your macroeconomic choice something that is bigger and less frequent is your choice of vehicles. So you see now the basic choices you have an can relate these to choices a business makes. But there are even more choices. Now lets say you find your job is also needed elsewhere and it is at the same rate of pay. You have nothing keeping you where you are and you are keen to be smart. You find a neighboring state that has lower taxes and thus lower gas prices. A smart person would see this as a no brainer. Same pay but lower cost, of course lets do that. What is missing from your choices and what matters to you as this fictional driver is that in the neighboring state that has lower business taxes, the driver that was their before has to pay a modest tax on his pension. It is still a good place to do business. So explain to me again how all economists and business educated people are wrong about lower taxes creating businesses that can create jobs.
Dan F
Wed, 09/10/2014 - 3:39pm
The Left continues its shameless tactics of outright lies to hang onto power at any cost. If we really wanted to go tit for tat, the real fatcat CEO bonuses pending a successful election outcome will be to the union managements that makes hundreds and hundreds of thousands compared to their rank and file. 100 people at the MEA who produce nothing but chaos, misery and layoffs for their rank and file by driving costs up at unsustainable rates and make over $100,000 a year! THEY ARE THE ONES WORRIED ABOUT BONUSES. UNIONS HAVE WRECKED MICHIGAN! It is so obvious. Drive from Allentown to Akron to Detroit to Saginaw and the devastation is everywhere. Towns are gone, industry is gone, people have moved, mostly to NONUNION states like the south. If we continue to tax our taxpayers more and more then there will be fewer tax payers, fewer job opportunities that is why unions and democrats must be rebuffed as they will spend us all into bankruptcy as they have in the past. If we really want to fix the system, consolidate the school district administrations from the town level to the county level. Curriculum and what is expected is pretty well established. Condense 550 administrations into 83. Have 83 superintendents instead of 550. Put the savings into school programs that they say are "cut". If the Unions are so serious about children, then get serious about unnecessary and duplicative costs. DF
R.L.
Wed, 09/10/2014 - 5:00pm
In the early 70s there were almost 10,000 students in the Alpena school system,now 3900. There wasn't cyber schools,charter schools, and as many percentage wise, home schoolers. Proposal A was the beginning of the end foe many schools. The lotto is a joke when it is pushed as a way to help finance the schools. Our problems go far beyond the schools .It is a societal issue and problem. The schools alone can't solve the problem.
ConcernedClarkston
Wed, 09/10/2014 - 5:06pm
R.L., You don't have a clue what you are talking about... If Proposal A had not gone through, Alpena Schools would have shut down. Talk about something you know about.
Susan Leithauser-Yee
Wed, 09/10/2014 - 5:21pm
A good article on the complex topic of school funding. Prop A seemed like a great idea to many taxpayers, including myself. However, I empathize with the dilemma faced by school administrators as they try to cover semi-fixed expenses with falling revenues. I appreciate Bridge's clarification that this challenge has little to do with any policy change enacted by Gov. Snyder. Shame on the MEA. There are problems with both the revenue formulas & the expense side. MEA is partly responsible for expense-side problems.
Charles Richards
Wed, 09/10/2014 - 5:33pm
The article says, "Snyder’s 2011-2012 K-12 school aid budget – his first – cut $930 million in school aid spending in comparison to the previous year, according to state Senate Fiscal Agency analysis." This is true, but misleading; a fact I have repeatedly pointed out to Bridge. In the September 4, 2014 Detroit Free Press, Paul Egan said, " It’s true that Snyder initially recommended cuts to 2012 school aid that the House Fiscal Agency pegged at $961 million, which included about $520 million in federal cuts. But by the time the budget was finalized, improving revenues and other factors reduced the overall cut to about $393 million — all of it tied to the termination of federal stimulus money. And in the February 2, 2014 Free Press, Mr. Egan said, " In fact, Snyder’s first budget ultimately increased the state share of education funding by about $134 million, from $10.7 billion in 2011 to $10.8 billion in 2012." That is because supplemental appropriations (which Snyder supported) were passed after the Senate Fiscal Agency report was issued. The article also says, "In looking at total state spending per pupil and dividing it by the number of pupils, Bean found that it comes out to $6,884 in fiscal 2011-2012 and $7,545 in fiscal 2014 – a difference of $661. Of that, $439 was due to state spending and $222 to a decrease in the number of students, Bean found." Again, this is true, but misleading. In his February 2, 2014 article, referring to David Martell, executive director of Michigan School Business Officials, Mr. Egan said, " Still, Martell agrees that school districts were better off getting $505 million as direct payments to help cover their Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System bill than if Snyder had used that same amount to increase the per-pupil foundation allowance by up to about $350 per pupil. As a per-pupil grant, school districts would have shared the money with public charter schools that don’t have huge retirement legacy costs. As a MPSERS payment, they get that extra money all to themselves, based on the size of their payrolls." The article also says, "In many financially stressed districts, the state’s foundation allowance has not matched revenue losses tied to sharp enrollment drops." What would Bridge prefer, that we not have the money follow the student? Should a district get the same amount of money to educate fewer students? No doubt costs do not fall in strict proportion to the decline in students, but I suspect that administrators don't have any trouble scaling up when enrollment increases. District superintendents are generally well paid; if they cannot manage downsizing, perhaps they should look for work elsewhere. I strongly suggest that voters regularly check the Detroit Free Press for articles by Paul Egan if they want accurate assessments about campaign claims. Clearly, Bridge is not up to the job.
ConcernedClarkston
Wed, 09/10/2014 - 6:45pm
The MEA my have taken some creative license with what they said in the commercial, but what they said is basically true. School districts have had to cut services and programs due to the funding changes put in place by Snyder and co. I have been watching the finances in my local school district for the last five years. They are receiving less now then they were when Snyder took office. The districts were receiving other funding in addition to their state foundation allowance when Snyder came into office. That extra funding is gone. The school districts don't know until mid-fall how much they will receive in funding and so they cannot do proper planning for the school year (including teacher contracts). So much for Mr. CPA. Most teachers in the state have had to take pay cuts or pay freezes since Snyder came into office and most are paying significantly more for their medical insurance/co-pays. Most non-teacher district employees have taken even worse pay cuts as the teachers. Most of Mr. Snyder's corporate hot shot buddies have gotten much richer in the same time frame. Therefore, the comment about Snyder's tax changes rewarding CEOs with “big bonuses” may not be directly accurate, but it IS pretty darn close to the truth. The districts are paid a foundation allowance for each student and that foundation allowance has gone down since the Nerd took office. Due to how Proposal A was designed before it was put into effect, there is a problem with the equality of funding between the districts with some receiving significantly more per student than the lower funded school districts. The higher funded districts are almost all in areas with previously (or current) high tax bases and many are "high rent" districts (Bois Blanc, Mackinac Island, Birmingham, Bloomfield, Rochester, Lamphere, Farmington, Ann Arbor, Grosse Pointe, Burt Twp, Beaver Island, Whitefish Twp, Oneida Twp, Grant Twp, Northport, Center Line, Jefferson Schools-Monroe, Walled Lake, etc.). Is it any wonder that most of the districts receiving the higher foundation allowances have superior MEAP scores? I think not. However, it shows that higher funding can result in higher scholastic attainment, and isn't that what Snyder is all about? Hmmm... Here is more information on the foundation allowances for publicly funded schools in Michigan: http://www.senate.michigan.gov/sfa/Departments/DataCharts/DCk12_Foundati... By the way, I am not a teacher, administrator, or employed in any industry related to education. I just know the truth.
Matt Korolden
Wed, 09/10/2014 - 7:20pm
What's missing in this financial analysis is the effect on community governed schools of the massive redistribution of public funds to charter schools made possible by the Republican push - funded by GLEP and ALEC - to allow limitless expansion of profit oriented education management companies in our state. Go crunch some if those numbers and then call a foul.
Dan Ezekiel
Sun, 09/14/2014 - 9:04pm
I am a teacher in the Ann Arbor Public Schools. I'd like to dig a little deeper into this statement: "It is also true that districts from Grand Rapids to Ann Arbor to Lansing have been forced to make sharp budget cuts because state aid has not offset rising expenses and revenue loss due to declining enrollment." The implication of the quote above is that Ann Arbor enrollment is falling; it isn't, it is flat or slowly increasing. For instance, district enrollment increased by more than 100 between 2009-10 and 2012-13 (out of a total student count of 16,000+), according to the district website. The fall count in 2013 was then lower by 224, but rumor has it, our count this year will be higher than 2012 (Count Day hasn't occurred yet this year). The deep cuts the district has made, including larger class sizes and closing 5 middle school pools, therefore should be attributed almost entirely to state funding not covering rising costs, rather than to declining enrollment. These expenses certainly don't include rising teacher salaries; I make about 5% less than I did 8 years ago (and take home a good deal less than that, due to mandatory 3% contribution to retiree health care fund). No doubt, however, my total compensation cost has increased, due to the huge state-mandated rise in retirement contributions districts have to make for each teacher. On the other hand, we have lost teachers overall for several years now. I realize these financial minutiae are complex and arcane, but when the Bridge accuses MEA of a flagrant foul, I think it has a responsibility to be especially careful in its own statements justifying this judgment.
Ray
Tue, 11/04/2014 - 3:17pm
Of course this is a relatively complex issue, and many people have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Some fundamentals that may help cut through the complexity. The topic of discussion should not be for or against increased funding for public schools, but for or against improved education for the students. Allowing parents to choose alternatives to the existing public schools encourages competition and ultimately those who provide the best services will prevail. Blindly supporting a government monopoly avoids competition and removes much of the incentive to improve, not to mention eliminating parental choice for all but the wealthy.If parents are removing their children from your school, investigating why and addressing the cause is a much better approach than trying to prevent parents from having a choice. Total compensation for public school teachers includes two very costly benefits - health care and retirement - and the allocation of funds among salary, health care and retirement is largely determined by the teachers themselves through their union. Complaining about that allocation should be directed to their union when total compensation has increased but they are displeased with the allocation. The total compensation for teachers in general is extremely generous compared with equivalents in the private sector. Saying thank you might be better than complaining. More specifically, complaining about additional funds being dedicated to the retirement fund is almost comical. Under previous administrations the fund was clearly headed for virtual bankruptcy (see Detroit municipal retirement plans), and this administration has partially corrected that trajectory. Again, a thank you is in order. Of course it is somewhat painful to have to partially pay for some benefits that previously appeared to be free (a bankrupt pension is not a free benefit - it is no benefit at all) but it is a reality. The public is not willing to endlessly increase funding for public schools in the face of declining results. Fair or not, that is the reality. Schuaer's campaign ads are a fraud, and he knows it. Teachers should have known it, and known that repeating and supporting fraudulent claims don't improve the public's opinion of the schools or the teachers. A little honesty is sorely needed here.