How we make the call
Truth Squad assigns five ratings to the political statements we review, in descending levels of accuracy:
|Who:||Rick Snyder for Governor|
|What:||“Linda,” 30-second ad|
|The call:||Regular Foul|
“School funding is always tough. But at least we’re not cutting state education funding like Granholm and Schauer did. Governor Snyder has increased K-12 state funding every year he’s been in office, in spite of what you’ve heard. Increased spending. And he even shored up teachers’ pensions. I taught for 31 years. I trust the direction Governor Snyder is taking in education.”
The 30-second TV ad by the campaign for incumbent GOP Gov. Rick Snyder is getting as much notice for who's in the ad as its content. In it, retired school teacher Linda Thaler attacks Mark Schauer, the Democratic candidate for governor, for education funding cuts while he was in the state Senate. Why the fuss over Thaler? She happens to be Snyder's next-door neighbor at his Gun Lake vacation home south of Grand Rapids. Lansing news service MIRS also reports that Thaler ran for Republican precinct delegate. Snyder spokesperson Emily Benavides told MIRS: “She is a supporter like any other.”
The ad continues the fight over a over a pivotal, seemingly interminable issue in the race for governor: Which candidate is most committed to improving Michigan’s struggling K-12 educational system? The debate over whether Gov. Snyder raised or lowered education funding in his first year in office has turned into math-class-for-politicos, as each side bends numbers to suit its case.
And now we have dueling teachers.
Schauer, a former congressman and state senator, has taken shots at Snyder for cuts to education during Snyder’s first year in office while giving a tax breaks to business. The Democratic Governors Association ran a TV ad featuring Royal Oak school teacher Kim Stanley attacking Snyder for cutting “a billion dollars” from education (Truth Squad called a foul on that attack, too).
Now it's Snyder's turn. Thaler speaks to the camera from a living room setting, with a script that tries to turn the tables on Schauer.
Statements under review:
“School funding is always tough. But at least we’re not cutting state education funding like Granholm and Schauer did.”
The ad cites Schauer's 2003 vote as a state senator on a measure aimed at closing an expected $350 million shortfall in the school aid fund. It passed by a 38-0 margin. According to an analysis by the House Fiscal Agency, the measure added $152 million in new tax and lottery revenue for school aid funding. Then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed a separate executive order that cut the education budget by roughly $100 per student. Analysis at the time by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a Midland-based conservative think tank, described it as part of a deal struck between Granholm and GOP Sen. Majority Leader Ken Sikkema.
Statements under review:
“Governor Snyder has increased K-12 state funding every year he’s been in office, in spite of what you’ve heard. Increased spending. And he even shored up teachers’ pensions.”
Strap on your green eyeshades. Schauer has repeatedly asserted that Snyder cut spending in 2011-2012 for K-12 schools and higher education by more than $1 billion, citing analysis by the Senate Fiscal Agency. It includes a $930 million cut for K-12 schools, $12 million for community colleges and $216 million for higher education. The measure included a $470 cut in per pupil funding. But that calculation did not include $154 million to allocate $100 per pupil for eligible “best practices” school districts and $288 million to support the teacher pension fund – an obligation that districts would have otherwise been required to meet. It also does not account for the loss of more than $500 million in federal stimulus funds that had been available in the previous budget when Granholm was still in office. The state ended up spending $12.75 billion in school funding in Snyder’s first budget, compared with $12.98 billion the year before.
The Snyder camp cites a chart from the Department of Technology, Management and Budget that shows state funding for K-12 education has increased from $10.8 billion in fiscal 2011-2012 – his first school budget – to $11.7 billion for fiscal 2014-2015. In the past three years, Snyder has pumped more than $970 million into districts’ teacher retirement obligations. But the minimum effective foundation allowance has remained relatively flat since Snyder took office in 2011, standing at $7,146 in fiscal 2010-2011 and $7,187 for 2014-2015.
|The call:||Regular Foul|
The ad overreaches when it accuses Schauer of “cutting state education,” imparting blame to him for a per pupil funding cut that was in fact an executive order signed by the governor. The part of the package that he and his Senate colleagues approved actually added money for schools, part of a larger deal (agreed upon by both political parties) to close a sizable school aid funding gap.
It is true that K-12 spending has increased every year since Snyder's first K-12 budget. But it’s also true that K-12 funding in Snyder’s first budget fell from from the previous year, which contradicts Thaler’s statement that “at least we’re not cutting state education funding.”