Monday, May 13, 2013

Guest Post: The Meaning of an $800 Million Diversion from the School Aid Fund

My friend Sascha Matish (who is also a co-chair of the Ann Arbor Open Coordinating Council) wrote me an email that was so clear that I asked her if we could turn it into a blog post. Lucky for the rest of you, she agreed. Here it is: 

This week the Republicans controlling the Michigan state legislature announced their plans to divert $800 million of school aid funds to pay for fixing our roads and highways.  This is after the state has already cut hundreds of millions of dollars from the school aid fund.

I keep thinking (yet not saying out loud) that this has to be as bad as it is going to get.

I am going to stop thinking that now.
Instead, I am now thinking that our biggest fear is actually true: Governor Rick Snyder and his fellow Republicans in the state legislature want to destroy public education as we know it so that Snyder’s friends in the private sector running online education and charter school companies can make a profit off our children’s education.

I may be a little off, but here is how it seems to have played out:

1.  Cut K-12 funding.
2.  Vilify teachers and enact drastic changes to how their unions can represent them and receive dues/fees from their members, in an attempt to weaken teachers’ unions.
3.  Radically change the Emergency Financial Manager law so the state can take over any city, county, school district, etc., at any time with little to no input from the citizens of that city, county, district, etc.
4.  Cut K-12 funding again.
5.  Allow for an increase in the number of charter schools.
6.  Pass “right to work” legislation in an attempt to completely disable the unions that will fight against steps 1 through 5.
7.  Cut K-12 funding some more.
8.  Don't do anything to address the increasing financial burden to school districts caused by the pension system for public school employees.
9.  Create a work group (after the secret group was outed) to study the feasibility of "increased efficiencies" for K-12 education, including online education from for-profit companies not located in Michigan, and $5,000/pupil "value schools."  Remind the public that “increased efficiencies” are needed, because of 1, 4 and 7.
10.  Divert HUGE sums of money from K-12 education so we can fix roads that arebadly in need of repair, because that is where the money for road improvements should come from (sarcasm added).

Here is what I suspect the next step will be: Tell the public we have no choice but to follow through on the recommendations of the work group in step 9, on a large scale, in order to address our financial woes and our "failing schools," many of which are failing because the state decided to stop funding them. 

I am beginning to think that Snyder planned this all along.  There does not appear to be a way to stop him right now.  Until Democrats get control of the state House or Senate, I don't know how we can.  And, for a true believer in the public school system, that is what is so scary.

--Sascha Matish

Readers: Do you agree with Sascha that "I am beginning to think that Snyder planned this all along.  There does not appear to be a way to stop him right now." Do you think there is a way to stop these shenanigans?


  1. Excellent post. I want to know why none of our public media folks who have (albeit occasional) access to Snyder do not corner him with exactly this account, and force him to explain. He needs to be accountable, he needs a real reporter to refuse to let him get away with his talking points and issue skirting. 2014 can't come soon enough, and we had better be prepared to fight hard and donate heartily to defeat all who need defeating.

  2. Great post, indeed! This, too:

  3. It really does just come down to money, doesn't it. I believe so strongly that an educated population is what makes us (Americans) great and I try so hard to stay positive. Dismantling the public schools and thus widening the gap between the educated and uneducated, haves and have nots, will turn us into something quite different. Are people really so hateful and fearful that they support this? Perhaps Snyder could illustrate his vision of the future for me and help me to understand how the future he is creating is better for the state of Michigan. It is baffling. All I see are larger divisions among people based on education, race, economics.

  4. Do I agree with Sascha? Yes.

    Do I think there is a way to stop it? No.

    Do I think we should give up? No. Even if we can't stop it now, we have to work to change the make-up of the state legislature, continue to give the public a sane perspective on public education, and be ready to reverse the damage by having a sensible plan prepared for the day when these legislators are voted out.

    - YpsiAnon

  5. Looks like there's almost the amount they want to cut extra in the state coffers. Hmmm. Now what will Snyder try to do? The argument to raid the school fund to fix roads is no longer there. If he still tries to cut spending, well, there's no such thing as coincidence, as my mom always used to say.