This post has been updated to include data from the 2014/2015 school year and with an additional comment at the end.
Last month, Michigan Republican Senator Patrick Colbeck had an op-ed pulled and then republished at The Detroit News with modifications after he was busted lying about various aspects of the Affordable Care Act.
Colbeck is now at it again. He recently published an op-ed in the Canton Observer attempting to convince readers that everything is fine with education funding, Republicans have actually INCREASED it, and that the problems that Plymouth-Canton Community Schools (P-CCS) are having are their own goddam fault.
However, shortly after it was published, the Canton Observer posted this on their Facebook page:
Thanks to Google cache, you can read the original op-ed HERE. I wrote to the Canton Observer to find out just what Colbeck had wrong. I haven’t heard back from them but, having had a look at some documents presented at a P-CCC board of education meeting, it appears to be due, at least in part, to this statement by Colbeck in his op-ed:
One final point to consider is the administration of the funds that have been provided to the school districts. Against the backdrop of declining enrollment on the order of 1,115 students since 2011, P-CCS has added over 15 administrators.
Was it truly necessary to add 15 more people overseeing operations, or might that money have been better spent hiring 15 new teachers or increasing the pay of current teachers? Ultimately, that is up to the school board and parents to decide. However, I would encourage greater transparency and cooperation from the board with our entire community. It seems instead that some members of the board are deflecting from an examination of their actions and seeking to blame Lansing for perceived funding cuts or parents that choose to send their students to charter schools.
The problem with this is that it is incorrect. P-CCS may have hired 15 new administrators but, at the same time, they had over half that number leave so they are actually up in headcount by only 8.5 full-time equivalents (FTEs) during the 2013/2014 school year. Last year, they reduced the number by another 5.25 FTEs so the reality is that, over the past five years, the district is only up by 3.25 non-union administrators. Not “over 15” as Senator Colbeck would have us all believe.
Was Colbeck lying to make his point more vociferously? Or is he incapable of reading what I consider to be a pretty straightforward spreadsheet? Perhaps he got incomplete information and then ran with it when penning his piece. The later seems the most likely since he’s defending himself on his Facebook page by posting screenshots of different spreadsheets. Rather than consulting with the school board, he’s simply defending his mistake.
Only he knows for sure how he came to post inaccurate information to defend his position that the P-CCS is responsible for their own financial troubles and he is standing by his original post and even has it on his webpage. Meanwhile, the piece is still down at the Canton Observer.
If Republicans were so right on these issues, you’d think they would be able to defend them honestly instead of having to lie or exaggerate to make their point. Clearly, at least with Senator Colbeck, this is not the case.
UPDATE: Sen. Colbeck is standing by his “assertions” as he calls them, pointing to the spreadsheets on this page. However, he is not using the “full-time equivalent” (FTE) numbers, he’s using “Count” which doesn’t take into account that some of these individuals do not work full time. Also, he neglects to include the people who were transferred in from other bargaining units and don’t count toward the FTEs. You can see the actual numbers on this spreasheet. Note that it has two tabs, one for “non-affiliated” (non-union) administrators and “PCA” (unionized) administrators. Again, he also neglects to mention that in the past year, P-CCS has dropped their number of administrators by 5.25.
Sen. Colbeck wants to blame the district’s financial problems on the district itself for being too top heavy but the plain fact is that we are underfunding our public school classrooms in this state and no amount of exaggeration or obfuscation will change that. Yes, the state of Michigan is putting more into the MSPERS pension system for teachers. That’s because we owe it to the many teachers who put their lives into educating our children and who should be able to retire in dignity, not poverty. That money does NOT go into our classrooms where the children are. And the fact that it is underfunded is NOT the fault of the teachers. This “problem” has been ongoing for decades.
Personally, I think their pensions are well-earned and well-deserved and it’s high time we quit painting retired teachers as parasites or “expenses”.