Corporate Lobbyist/Former Governor Engler Makes Outragous Comment About Public School Teachers

Former Governor, and current corporate lobbyist, John Engler is once again in the Michigan news.  The Detroit Free Press asked Enlger, who signed Michigan’s first charter school law, his opinion about the unflattering revelations by a Detroit Free Press expose’ on charters.  Engler quickly changed the topic to public school teachers and said . .

“I had always assumed that teachers would come together and decide we can do a better job running schools than the administration. For a variety of reasons, that never happened.”

That is a fascinating statement.  Engler failed to point out any instance were legislation was passed by him or by succeeding governors that gives teachers more control in their schools.  In fact, the power has been shifted almost entirely into the hands of the administrators, the school board, and the state and federal government.  Teachers have little control regarding the curriculum they teach thanks to state and federal mandates. A number of anti-union laws signed by Governor Snyder took away teachers’ input in evaluation systems, recall and layoff policies, and a whole host of other issues that are important to the overall quality of schools in which they teach.  Teachers now live in fear of being selectively laid off or fired for anything, even something as benign as expressing a different opinion.

If Governor Engler wanted to give teachers more control, he should have considered a system that would allow, or even mandate, that schools be governed by a combination of teachers, administrators, and community members.  The current system makes little sense.  Community members are in charge of the school because they are elected to the school board, but they are rarely in the school buildings.  Therefore, they delegate almost all of the decision making to the administration.  School boards typically have no system of gathering input from teachers.  Teachers can speak out in the community comment portion of the school board meeting, but they do so at the risk of being evaluated poorly or being denied other opportunities by the administrators or by the school board itself.

Prior to Governor Snyder’s anti-union laws, at least teachers were in the dining room during dinner even if they did not have a seat at the table.  Now they are left eating in the servants quarters and Governor Engler has the nerve to suggest teachers made that choice. That type of nonsense might work when lobbying congressmen on behalf of corporate America, but back here in Michigan we know a lie when we hear it.

Posted in Schools | 4 Comments

Republican Mailing Uses Fake Michigan Family to Claim They Support Education

State Representative Phil Potvin’s mailer arrived in my mailbox today.  Potvin’s letter touts the Republicans’ commitment to education.  It was a bit like getting a mailer from PETA saying they support the meat packing industry!  I’ve seen firsthand the Republicans’ commitment to education when I saw elementary students have their school close and lose their physical education classes all at the same time.  I saw the Republicans’ commitment to education when class sizes were increased and summer school opportunities for struggling learners were eliminated.   I saw the Republicans’ commitment to education when cherished extra-curricular activities were cut.  I saw all of that in just one of the districts that Representative Potvin represents.  These types of cuts have been happening in districts all around the state.   Don’t believe me?  Go to the Kids Not CEOs website created by the Michigan Education Association to see the amount of money each school district has lost since Governor Snyder took office in 2011.  If you think that website is too biased, type “school cuts” into a Google search and then add any Michigan school district to the search box and you are sure to find plenty of stories of valuable programs being cut from whichever school district you type in.
mailerDespite the Republicans’ attack on education, Potvin’s mailer says he sees “a brighter future for Michgian families.” Right under those empty words is a picture of a very attractive family.  You can also find that same family on a website for a Montessori school in Idaho, a dentist office in Tennessee, and on a blog page from who the heck knows where.  It appears that the Republicans’ rhetoric is so outrageously false that they cannot even get a real Michigan family to pose for their propaganda!  A new day, a new low.

Posted in Phil Potvin, Schools | 9 Comments

Looking out for #1. Legislators Spending an Additional 4.7 Million at the Capitol in 2014

capitol2

Photo Credit: Chad Phillips

Michigan Republicans are once again taking care of #1.  In March they increased spending on Capitol Police by 1.7 million dollars despite the fact that the Capitol Building is one of the safest places in the state.  This month they passed a budget that includes an additional 3 million dollars for renovations to the Capitol Building.   Altogether the fiscal conservatives are spending 4.7 million additional dollars in 2014 to make sure they are comfortable at work.  Meanwhile, no money has been allocated to increase police presence in schools or to make school entrances safer despite calls to do so.  As you drive down a pothole ridden road to drop your kids off at their unsecure school, you should feel good knowing that your state legislature will be comfortable the entire 86 days they are in session this year.
Update: According to the TV show Off the Record, the chairs may be replaced at the Capitol Building for about $900 a piece!

Posted in Law Enforcement, Schools | 1 Comment

Part-time Legislature Ballot Initiative is Dead

The part-time legislature ballot initiative is dead.  The following message is now posted on the committee’s website:

The Committee to Restore Michigan’s Part-time Legislature regrets to announce the suspension of its campaign to restore Michigan’s citizen-driven, part-time legislature.  It is now apparent that we will fall short of collecting enough valid signatures before the end of June to get our amendment on the ballot this coming November.

Our campaign faced many obstacles including an organized political opposition determined to maintain the status quo in Lansing.

While I supported their effort, I am not too disappointed because there were several flaws in the language of their initiative.  First, the ballot initiative allowed for about half of the necessary staff members needed to run the legislature.  Second, since the starting salary was pretty low, they should have provided for yearly increases in pay, above the cost of inflation, similar to a teacher’s pay scale.  Third, a law preventing the dismissal of employees for missing work to serve in the legislature should be included so that anyone could logistically hold office in the legislature.  The group stated they will be back with a  “revitalized approach” in 2016.   Maybe the next time around the ballot language will be improved and that will lead to more grass roots support.  It’s doubtful they will ever get support from the mainstream political establishment.

Posted in 2014 Election | Leave a comment

The Most Abusurd Thing About the EAA Spending Spree

English: Disney World, Orlando, Florida

English: Disney World, Orlando, Florida (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Education Achievement Authority (EAA) hasn’t had much good press lately.  The district, made of Detroit’s worst performing schools, got its test results back and the vast majority of students “failed to show even marginal progress.”  Then the district made national news when a teacher was fired, and later reinstated, when lack of communication equipment lead her to break up a violent fight with a broom.  Then a bombshell dropped this past week as the Detroit News uncovered that in a little less than two years the EAA had spend $174,000 on airfare and hotels for staff.  One trip sent 35 people to a conference about online learning at Disney’s Swann & Dolphin Resort!  An EAA spokesman justified the cost saying the travel “was necessary to train new teachers.”  The EAA students were to have the vast majority of their curriculum delivered online using a program called BUZZ according to a shocking interview of a former EAA teacher by Eclectablog.  However, the students were slowed by a lack of computers, network issues, and issues with the software itself, or pretty much everything.

Imagine a classroom of disadvantaged kids in Detroit sitting two or three to a computer trying to get a crappy software program to work with a faulty network while 35 highly educated staff members are at Disneyworld because they evidently need to be taught in person!  There is one thing that the EAA and Disneyworld have in common though.  They are both championed by someone with a high pitch voice living in a fantasy world.

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Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Forget Roads or Schools, Michigan’s Surplus is Going to Businesses According to State Rep.

Pot Holes

Pot Holes (Photo credit: JeepersMedia)

Representative Phil Potvin, of the 102nd district, appeared earlier this month on the WCMU program Capitol Report.  When host David Nichols asked where Michigan’s 975 million dollar surplus was going to be spent, Potvin might have shared something Republicans don’t want you to know.  Potvin said “we are anywhere between 600 and 850 million dollars of that surplus that is already pre-committed, depending on how these people are with keeping their employees, keeping their commitment to the state of Michigan, investing in Michigan for more jobs.”  Potvin said the money is being doled out to businesses because most of Michigan’s corporations decided to stick with the old tax system rather than migrate to the flat six percent tax.  These tax breaks are on top of the 1.8 billion dollars or so each year that other businesses get by choosing the no tax option.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville seemed to confirm that the projected surplus is now nearly non-existent.  Richardville told the Lansing State Journal “the legislature may no longer be able to provide immediate tax relief this year.”  Richardville and Governor Snyder are talking about using the 100 million that is actually left of the surplus to fix roads, though no votes have been taken on that.

While legislators debate how we should spend the 100 million dollar surplus, the tax giveaways continue.  Just yesterday three West Michigan businesses were promised 1.35 million dollars of our tax money, on top of the normal tax breaks they will get, because they plan to expand in Michigan.  Does anyone remember in 2011 when Governor Snyder said “one of the problems with the tax credit world is that you’re picking winners and losers, and government is not really competent to do that?”  What is clear in all of this is that picking winners and losers is now on Snyder’s agenda.  Wealthy business owners are the winners.  The working class tax payers are the losers.

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Posted in Phil Potvin, Taxes | 7 Comments

A Quick Look Back at Michigan Populist’s First Three Years

Easter Sunday was the third birthday for the Michigan Populist Blog.  Here is a quick look back.

The first post:  The first post, entitled Snyder Uses Poor and Politicized Data to Judge Public Schools, was actually an adaptation from a letter written to one of Governor Snyder’s constituent liaisons.  The post, and the letter, poked holes in the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) data that the Governor and his staff were using to suggest Michigan’s students were not getting a quality education.

The most successful post:  The most successful post by far was from this January and was entitled Governor Snyder Deceived You on School Funding. Here is How.  The post, which points out that per pupil funding is below 06-7 levels, and highlights inequity in school funding, was viewed 48,000 times and shared over 8,000 times.  Not too shabby.

The most respected post: My 2011 post called Great Lakes Education (Read DeVos) Project outlined the background and agenda of the DeVos funded anti-public education group.  The post has been referenced by several blogs including the best progressive blog going, Ecletablog.

Most disappointing:  I was hoping I would get more of a response out of my post Legislators Have the Means to Make Schools Safer.  Here is What They Should Do and How You Can Help.  I outlined my ideas and created a petition asking legislators to fund secure school entrances, mandate a reasonable counselor to student ratio, and put intermediate school districts in charge of school safety.  Not only were none of my suggestions implemented, and all my tweets, emails, and Facebook post ignored, legislators did virtually nothing to make schools safer in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

A post people should have read but didn’t: My post How the Winners and Losers Nearly Clashed at the Capitol on Tuesday was a first hand report of how police and protesters found themselves in a potentially deadly, and easily avoidable, situation during the right-to-work protest in December of 2012.  Even if you don’t read the article, take a look at the pictures.  Then remember that Governor Snyder likes to say they should do things in Washington like they do in Lansing.

Biggest surprise: Meeting Lynn Mason, candidate for the 102nd House, and finding out that she referenced my blog post Posthumus Lyons is Michigan’s Least Ethical Legislator in her campaign materials and stump speech.  I sure hope it helps contribute to a defeat of Posthumus Lyons this November.  I highly encourage public school activists to volunteer and/or contribute to Lynn’s campaign.

People I would like to thank: I would like to thank my wife Amy who typically proof reads my posts and gets stuck watching the kids when I decide to write a blog post on short notice.  I’d also like to thank the many kind people who have read and shared my posts and those who have given me words of encouragement.  Lets do this again in three years!

Chad

Posted in Blogging | Leave a comment

Why You Should Support the Part-Time Legislature Ballot Initiative

Michigan State Capitol

Michigan State Capitol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Michigan’s legislators had enough time last year to pass a law to make sure that one guy in the U.P. could make money by letting people pet bear cubs.  That was just one of 367 laws passed since January 1st, 2013.  Laws are being passed so fast that citizens cannot keep up, and it’s doubtful that even the legislators have had time to understand the implications of each bill.  The overreaching nature of the current legislature is just one of the reasons a new ballot initative is being undertaken in order to restore Michigan’s part-time legislature.

Michigan is one of just four states with a full-time legislature, though another six states are near full-time according to the National Conference of State Legislators.  Michigan legislators are the 4th highest paid in the nation taking home $71,685 a year.  Because the legislators are full time, they require a larger staff.  The average staff member per legislator of a full-time legislature is almost nine people per elected official as opposed to just three per elected officials for a part-time legislature.  According to Mike Kuras, the Secretary of the Committee to Restore Michigan’s Part-Time Legislature (CRMPTL), Michigan now employs almost 1,000 staff members to help our148 legislators accomplish their work.  The CRMPTL is in the midst of gathering signatures that would not only return Michigan to a part-time legislature like it was before 1967, the ballot initiative would also limit the number of staff members to 250.  That number might be a little bit low since using the three staffers for each part-time legislator rule means about 444 staffers would be typical.  Legislators would likely lose some of their personal staff, but it would go beyond that.  The amendment calls for the elimination of the Michigan Legislative Council (MLC).  The MLC has a number of sub-entities including the Legislative Service Bureau whose job it is to compile and publish Michigan’s laws.  Kuras says that the legislature would be put to the task of recreating a body to perform that task.  They would likely have to do it with a lot smaller staff though.

One of the criticisms being bantered around about the initiative is that this move would actually increase the power of lobbyist in Lansing.  Even lobbyists are saying that, so it makes you wonder about the validity of the argument.  Kuras suggests that legislators will be spending a lot more time in their home district, unless they can afford and justify working full time in Lansing for half pay, so they might be far more likely to rely on local experts and the opinions of their constituents rather than those of paid lobbyists.  Also, when legislators are at home they wouldn’t be a stones throw from the lobbyist’s offices, and they wouldn’t be available to attend the fundraisers that lobbyists hold two or three days a week in Lansing.

Another valid question is who can afford to be a legislator at a pay that is capped at $35,000 a year with a mild cost of living increase each year.  First, the average Michigander makes less than $28,000 a year.  So if you are looking for average folks, the pay is not a barrier.  Additionally, legislators would be allowed, if not encouraged, to supplement their income with non-political work.  Since they would only be in session 60 days each year, unless called up for a special session by the Governor, they would have time to hold down another job and supplement that income.

Michigan still lacks the kind of transparency that would help prevent legislators from receiving kickbacks to make up for their lost income.  Unfortunately, this amendment wouldn’t change that.  According to Kuras, the transparency piece of this legislation would make public knowledge all the fringe benefits that legislators receive from the state, for instance when legislators take a trip to another country to attend an economic summit.  Apparently, the authors of this amendment hope that would shame the legislators into blowing less of the tax payers’ money.  It’s pretty hard to shame a legislator though.

One of the hurdles the CRMPTL will face, should they get enough votes to put it on the ballot, is getting over the “just say no” mentality.  In the last election every ballot proposal was defeated by a no vote.  Based on the content of the amendments, it appears that the overriding philosophy was to say no rather than to actually consider the content of the five proposals independently.  The more ballot initiatives that get the needed signatures to make it on the ballot, the harder that no barrier will be to overcome.

So is a part-time legislature a good idea or not?  I guess we could look at this way. If we had a part-time legislature now, would we move to make it full time?  Also, do most voters believe that our best interests are being served when legislators cast their vote in Lansing?  If you said no to both of those questions, then why not say yes to a part-time legislature?

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Posted in 2014 Election, Government Reform | 8 Comments

Capitol Police to Legislators will be 1 to 6 While Flint Police to Residents is 1 to 833

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Inside the Capitol Building. Photo by Chad Phillps

According the FBI, Flint and Detroit are two of the top five most violent cities in America.  Yet, Flint has just 1.2 police officers for every 1,000 residents, and Detroit has just 3 police officer for every 1,000 residents.  It is clear that neither of those two cities have a large enough police force to deal with the amount of violent crimes taking place within their borders each day.

There is one place that will have more than enough police presence though, the Capitol Building in Lansing.  According to a Detroit Free Press article, legislators are more than doubling the amount of capitol police on duty and quadrupling their budget.  There will now be one police officer for every six legislators!  It’s hard to say what these police officers will be up to since there has been virtually no crime at the Capitol Building ever!

If self serving behavior were a crime, then we would need those extra police officers at the Capitol Building to arrest Republicans legislators.  Since it isn’t, those extra police officers should be patrolling the streets of Flint and Detroit where they could save lives.  This is another great example of Republicans wasting money while running around advocating for fiscal conservatism.

Posted in Law Enforcement | 2 Comments

Snyder’s Graphs Show he is not Responsible for Michigan’s Comeback

Governor Snyder has labeled himself the “comeback kid.”  Two solid indicators of a comeback would be unemployment trending down and people’s incomes trending up.  As you can see in the two graphs below from Governor Snyder’s dashboard, we are slowly improving in those two areas.  What is also as clear as the swimming pool that Snyder emerged from in his peculiar Super Bowl commercial is that any recovery is a result of national trends rather than local ones.  The most significant factor in Michigan’s recovery from the great recession, and in part the nation’s recovery, is the resurgence of Michigan’s automobile industry.  That recovery was facilitated with tax payer loans to GM and Chrysler approved by President Bush.  President Obama’s administration also gets credit for overseeing the restructuring of the two automotive behemoths.  The management and workers of the “Big 3″ also deserve praise.  The person who doesn’t deserve credit is Governor Snyder.  If Snyder’s own policies were really gaining traction, we would see Michigan closing the gap on the rest of the nation, which clearly isn’t happening according to the charts from Governor Snyder’s dashboard.  Snyder’s attempts to take credit for the recovery prove that either he isn’t as great with numbers as he claims, or he understands the numbers but is more concerned with getting votes than being honest with the people of Michigan.

Per Capita Income

Unemployment Rate

Posted in 2014 Election, Economy, Richard Snyder | Tagged | Leave a comment