As Michigan careens from crisis to crisis, it isn’t hyperbolic to say the nation is watching.
They’re watching, and they can’t believe what they’re seeing.
Our fair state has in recent years acquired the distinctions of poisoning a city’s water supply, having the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, being incapable of funding even the most basic of road repairs, and having one of the “World’s Most Disappointing Leaders” as our governor.
Now the spotlight’s glare has turned to Detroit, where a solution is desperately needed to the city’s school funding crisis.
One might be tempted to think our elected representatives would want to get this one right, even if only to save their own reputations. If the state’s funding package for Detroit Public Schools fails to bring the district back from the brink of insolvency, it will be yet another stain on their legacy.
But after last night’s deplorable actions by Republican House leaders, it is evident they will not waver in carrying out the mission of their wealthy West Michigan donors – a mission to eventually privatize our school system in Michigan.
Yes, House Republicans approved a $500 million deal, which sounds like an impressive amount. But the Senate bill, which passed with bipartisan support in March, allocated the full recommended $715 million. Some say the necessary number now may be close to $800 million.
So the House version fell hundreds of millions of dollars short of what the experts and stakeholders have said is necessary to keep the district solvent in the long-term.
And the fecklessness went beyond funding. House Republicans altered or stripped out provisions from the Senate bill designed to provide oversight and accountability. The Senate bill provided for creation of a Detroit Education Commission, which would regulate the opening of new traditional and independent charter schools. It also would have the authority to close failing traditional or charter schools.
One can certainly argue the merits of such a commission, appointed by the mayor and governor, but it had strong bipartisan support, including from Mayor Mike Duggan.
The House bill contains no such oversight for charter school proliferation or failing schools.
Further, the House bill includes measures that weaken collective bargaining, require all teachers to reapply for their jobs, and allow uncertified teachers to teach in DPS schools. It’s already incredibly difficult for DPS to recruit and retain good teachers. These measures would make things much, much worse.
Why would they do all this? The answer is simple: They don’t want the district to succeed in the long-term.
Because when the district eventually has to declare bankruptcy, then they can disingenuously claim that they tried, they did their part, but DPS just couldn’t get it together. And then they present the savior: Vouchers for private, for-profit schools.
Those who are paying attention, however, see through the ruse.
House leaders worked late into the night to push through this irresponsible package, which eventually passed on a razor-thin, party-line vote.
These are not the hallmarks of good governance. These are the hallmarks of dirty, special interest politics.
And they don’t care who knows it.