MLive Gets Lambasted by Readers for Making Endorsements

There was a time that newspapers were purposefully partisan.  People chose their newspaper based on their political leanings, like one might chosoe Fox News or MSNBC for their T.V. news today.  I can only assume that newspaper endorsements that occur today are left over from that bygone era.  These days it seems like bad form to claim to be objective and then endorse any politician.  I guess I’m not alone in that opinion.  Yesterday, MLive endorsed our controversial Attorney General Bill Schuette.  That was enough to send their readers into a conniption fit.  Here are a few of my favorite comments against MLive’s endorsement.

Tyler wrote “Media shouldn’t be endorsing anyone.  Any respectable mass media outlet is supposed to be politically impartial.”

Dan wrote “Mlive’s credibility is in question with this revelation.” 

Meeko wrote “Yet again what a shame.  Mlive . . . should stick to bringing us the news. Just pathetic.”

Donna wrote “‘Over the next four years, we hope to see Schuette’s priorities more in line with those of Michigan’s general population. We would advise him to follow his own words and receive instead of broadcast.’ The editorial board can write that claptrap and still endorse Schuette?”

Matt wrote “Why doesn’t MLive just come out as being partisan? Most people know this is the case.”

Jake says “This is why I only read the comments (not your articles) for entertainment.”

Matt says “Dear MLive: The moment you post YOUR editorial board’s endorsements as an article, it becomes YOUR endorsement, regardless of how you try to spin it. Also, just because something is long-standing or traditional doesn’t make it right. Every time you post an editorial board endorsement, you get major backlash from almost every commenter. Perhaps you should take a moment and actually listen and pay attention to your readers–they don’t want you publishing the editorial boards endorsements, so perhaps it’s time to stop this practice.”

MLive responded to several of these complaints stating “Editorial board opinion pieces and endorsements are a long-standing component of journalism.”  There are a lot of longstanding traditions that should be killed off.  Newspaper endorsements should be at the top of the list.

Note: Several other papers across the state released their endorsements and they were met with similar ire from their readers.  Kudos to smaller papers like the Traverse City Record Eagle who did not endorse either candidate, and the Cadillac News who does not endorse any candidates.

Posted in 2014 Election | Leave a comment

State Rep Uses the Pledge of Allegiance to Justify Discrimination Against LGBT People


Phil Potvin in his Phil Potvin hat.

Phil Potvin, Republican Representative of the 102nd District, is a “fortunate son” of a successful businessman.  To further borrow from the lyrics of the Credence Clearwater Revival hit, Potvin seems “born to wave the flag.”  In fact, Potvin likes the flag so much that it covers the bill of his Phil Potvin hat.  Anyone who loves the flag that much surely loves the Pledge of Allegiance too.  Of course, there is nothing wrong with that as long as you don’t use it to, say, defend your homophobic views.

When Potvin was asked by the Northern Express Newsweekly if he supported expansion of Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act to protect Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) individuals from discrimination, his entire response was “No. We are one nation under God, indivisible, with freedom and justice for all.” 

Let’s set aside for the moment that he actually got the pledge wrong.  In my book, freedom would mean that you are free to love who you want, and justice would mean that an employer shouldn’t legally be able to fire you from your job because of who you love.  I guess Potvin and I read different books.  I imagine he doesn’t share my appreciation for Credence Clearwater Revival either.

Posted in Equality, Phil Potvin | Leave a comment

Governor Candidate’s Lack of Presence “Up North” Could Prove Costly


Perhaps the only Mark Schauer sign in Wexford County.

If you live in a strong Republican or Democratic area, or in a gerrymandered district, you are probably used to your vote not meaning much.  However, your vote for Governor and Senator will matter come November 4th.  While Gary Peters has a pretty comfortable lead, and will likely be our next U.S. Senator, the Governor’s race is a toss up.  Mark Schauer is slightly behind Governor Snyder in the polls, but the race is within the margin of error.

Considering the tightness of the Governor’s race, you would think that the candidates would be crisscrossing the state looking for votes.  While that may be true, neither the criss nor the cross are occurring in Northern Michigan.  For instance, I live in Wexford County. Mark Schauer made one campaign stop here.  That occurred over a year ago and was held during the work week at 2:30 in the afternoon.  Governor Snyder hasn’t made any campaign stops here to my knowledge.  When it comes to getting supporters yard signs, the Snyder campaign has made them available at a local Republican campaign office.  To get a Mark Schauer sign I was told I would have to drive 44 miles to Clare.  In fact, in the 21 most Northern Counties in the Lower Peninsula only 3 have locations where Mark Schaur’s yard signs can be can be obtained.  I know yard signs don’t vote, but a total lack of presence by the Schauer campaign cannot be beneficial.

When Lon Johnson became the chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, he said the Democrats would “fight everywhere.” Since Johnson had just attempted to win election as a state representative “up north” in the 103rd district, I was convinced. However, I haven’t seen any change between this election and the last one in the Democratic Party.  I also haven’t seen any change in the Republican Party who count on votes “up north” without actually working for them.  If Schauer or Snyder lose by a few percent or less, you have to wonder if  their general disregard for pretty much all of Northern Michigan didn’t contribute to the loss.  It’s never wise to take voters, or votes, for granted.

Posted in 2014 Election, Richard Snyder, Wexford County | Leave a comment

Moolenaar Disses Voters in Favor of Special Interest Meeting


Moolenaar speaking with a Chamber of Commerce supporter.

Republican John Moolenaar is acting like a congressman even before he finds out if will become one.  That’s right, he is already putting special interest before his constituents.  Moolenaar had agreed to debate Dr. Jeff Holmes at Alma College on Monday, October 20th.  Both men are running for the right to represent the 4th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.  The Holmes campaign expected hundreds of people to show up to the event.  A week before the debate was to occur, Moolenaar got an offer he couldn’t refuse.  He was invited to meet with a handful of Chamber of Commerce members in Cadillac.  So Moolenar contacted Alma college last Tuesday to cancel.  Holmes was left to attend the debate alone.

Dr. Holmes' supporters greet John Moolenaar.

Dr. Holmes’ supporters greet John Moolenaar.

Supporters of the Holmes campaign greeted Moolenaar in Cadillac holding sings reading “We Demand a Debate” and “Public Discourse=Democracy.”  One person asked Moolenaar why he was afraid to debate.  Moolenaar only said he wasn’t afraid and walked into the meeting where a half dozen people awaited his arrival.  If Moolenaar is not afraid to debate, then he must be afraid to tell the Chamber of Commerce no.  For that reason, and many more, he will probably fit right into a dysfunctional Congress should he win the seat on November 4th.  The constituents on the other hand, will be the ones who will lose.

Posted in 2014 Election | Leave a comment

Representative Potvin’s Business Claims are Misleading at Best

PotvinfaceAnyone remember when Notre Dame hired George O’Leary as their football coach and then fired him five days later for falsifying his resume?  Well, State Representative Phil Potvin and O’Leary seem to have more in common than just being Catholic.  Phil Potvin’s official GOP house website states “Potvin retired as Chief Executive Officer of Western Concrete in 2006 and continues as a consultant to the company for property management in Big Rapids and Cadillac.”  In a recent candidate questionnaire that appeared in the Cadillac News Potvin said “I joined my dad at Western Concrete in 1971 until 2006 when the business sold.”  Not only do these statements seem to conflict with each other, they also conflict with reports filed with the State of Michigan. If Western Concrete Products was sold, or Potvin retired, why did he continue to sign off as president on the company’s corporate entity documents until 2011?  Why was he the one that disbanded the company when he filed a form that amended the articles of incorporation to read “the term of this corporation shall expire effective as of March 31st, 2011?”

Also at issue is his work as a “consultant for Wexford Concrete Properties.”  Potvin organized that company in 2007 according to the corporate entity documents.   Potvin listed his home address on Petrie Road in Cadillac as the initial office, and that address is where the yearly annual reports are sent.  Potvin’s name is the only one that shows up in the seven filings for Western Concrete Properties.  He is listed as “organizer,” “manager,” “managing member,” “member manager,” and “managing partner” depending on the year.  Nowhere is he listed as a consultant.  One is left wondering who he would be consulting anyhow.
It appears that Wexford Concrete Properties exists to sell or rent out the defunct Western Concrete Concrete Products properties.  A 2011 article in the Traversce City Record Eagle highlighted problems Potvin was having renting one of the closed Western Concrete Products sites in Traverse City.  According to the article, a Vietnam veteran was renting space from Potvin for his hot dog stand but didn’t have the proper permits to sell food.  The Vietnam veteran was evicted by Potvin and he told the Record Eagle “they got to me through him.  Being a high-profile individual, he didn’t want to fight my battles.”

All along Potvin has touted his business experience to convince voters that he could work the same wonders for our government that he worked for Western Concrete Products.  However, it appears he has misrepresented the level of success that he had with the company.  On top of that, we know his company received a $162,500 fine from the Department of Environmental Quality when they buried hazardous waste about a half of a mile from Cadillac’s well field.

George O’Leary was fired after five days in office.  In a few short weeks voters will decide if they should send Potvin back to Lansing for a third term.  He hopes to do for our State what he did for Western Concrete Products.  That is a scary thought.

Posted in 2014 Election, Phil Potvin | Leave a comment

Educators Looking to Become Legislators in 2014

Public school teachers have taken a shellacking these past four years.  This fall a handful of educators are looking to turn the tables and unseat some of Michigan’s worst legislators. At least eleven teachers, or retired teachers, ran in the primary, and at least nine won the right to be on the general election ballot in November.  Although all six are running as Democrats, they have some pretty diverse views.  One thing they have in common though is that they will all be champions for public school children at the Capitol.  If you consider yourself a champion for public schools yourself, read up on these candidates and choose one to help by donating your time or money. Just click on the candidate’s name for more information.

masonsitsmLynn Mason is running for the State House of Representatives in 86th District.  Lynn is running against Lisa Pothumus Lyons, who we crowed as Michigan’s least ethical legislator.  Lyons chairs the House Education Committee despite calling teachers “Hogs” who need to be “slaughtered.”  Even one of her former teachers called her out for her poor behavior.  Mason brings experience as a teacher, an apple farmer, and a county commissioner.  Surprisingly, she has out-raised the well connected career politician Posthumus Lyons.  Mason and her supporters have also knocked on over 20,000 doors.  This is the most important race in the House in 2014.

Dawn Levy is running for State Senate in the 24th District.  The seat is held by Senator Rick Jones.  Thankfully, Jones is being shown the door due to term limits.  His most memorable moment came when he compared Lansing public relations executive Kelly Rossman-McKinney to a hooker for working with people in both parties.  Levy is not likely to launch such attacks as she has spent her life helping people rather than tearing them down.  She has spent more than two decades as a teacher and as a volunteer paramedic.  She also is a strong proponent of the second amendment and was the former President of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs.  That should play well in the 24th Senate district that is home to a lot of sportsmen and sportswomen.  Levy would bring a strong female voice to a Senate that has far too few women and is losing Senate Majority Leader Gretchen Whitmer to term limits.


Mark Balcolm is running for the State House of Representatives in the 100th district.  He
is trying to upset the two term incumbent Jon Bumstead.  Bumstead called cutting funding to schools while cutting taxes on businesses, some of which were already making record profits, “hard choices.”  Balcom is probably the most fiscally conservative of the group of educators running in 2014.  In fact, it wasn’t long ago that Balcom was a Republican.  He is also a pro-life candidate which should help him out in the rural 100th district.  Balcolm currently teaches instrumental music in Hesperia.  If Balcom were elected, he would like to get people in Lansing working together again to solve our issues with funding for schools and roads.  He would also would like to work with businesses to grow the economy.

Ron Mindykowski is running for the State Senate in the 31st District.  The Bay City native, and 29 year teaching veteran, hopes to defeat Senator Mike Green.  Green authored a bill that would expanded concealed carrying into schools.  Governor Snyder vetoed it because it would not allow schools to opt out if they felt it was in the best interest of their students’ safety.  If voters elect Mindykowski, he plans to restore funding to public schools and cut taxes on middle class families.  He would restore common sense to the 31st District.

Robert Kennedy is running for the State House in the 106th District.  Kennedy is the dean of the group with his 38 years of classroom experience.  He also served in the Michigan Army National Guard.  Kennedy is running against incumbent Peter Pettalia.  Pettalia made news when he and two other GOP Representatives had their picture taken with a women’s fashion magazine and Pettalia remarked “don’t say we don’t understand women.” Kennedy is pretty much the complete opposite of Pettalia.  If elected, Kennedy plans to fight for marriage equality and the protection of reproductive rights for women.  Where Pettalia buckled and voted to cut school funding in his first term in the legislature, Kennedy would fight to restore school funding in his first term if elected.

Bette Pierman is running for the State Senate in the 21st District.  Bette is a retired teacher and has also volunteered for several worthy causes.  Pierman is running against John Proos who has been serving in either the State Senate or the House since 2005.  Proos, a political science major, has spent most of his adult life in politics.  He said in an interview that he has no problem taking money out of the school aid fund to balance the general fund budget.  Pierman would better represent the people of the 21st District because she is more like them.  She told M-Live “I know what it is like to struggle to make ends meet. I know what it is like to be unemployed. I know first-hand what it is like to experience age discrimination while searching for a job.”  She also knows how important education is and has made it clear that she would put students first, unlike John Proos.

Tom Stobie is running for the State House in the 101st District.  Stobie has a great deal of experience in education having served as a teacher, coach, principal, and superintendent.  He also served in the Navy during the Vietnam War.  If elected, Stobie plans to be an advocate for kids, veterans, small businesses, and he plans to fight to protect our environment.  Stobie is running against incumbent business owner Ray Franz.  Franz called nuclear energy “environmentally sound” and authored a law to ban offshore wind turbines.  It’s clear if you care about our future, namely our children and our environment, Stobie is the best choice for the 101st district.

Fred Sprague is running for the State Senate in the 33rd District.  Sprague served as a science teacher, a coach, and as a guidance counselor before he retired.  Sprague plans to focus his energy on education, economic development, and protecting the environment.  Sprague is running against incumbent Judy Emmons.  Believe it or not, Emmons was a school board president yet voted for the emergency manager bill and for the pension tax.  She was the target of an unsuccessful recall in 2011.  Hopefully residents of the 33rd District will penalize Emmons for turning her back on public school children and send Sprague to Lansing instead.

Cyndi Peltonen is running for State Senate in the 13th District.  Peltonen spent over a decade in the classroom.  Peltonon lists the environment, education, infrastructure, jobs, LGBTQ equality, and women’s issues as her top priorities if elected.  She is running against Marty Knollenberg who is currently serving in the State House.  Knollenberg was the original sponsor of Michigan’s right-to-work (for less) law.  He also authored a law that prevents teachers from getting raises based on experience (steps) when they are working without a contract.  This law creates a situation where the employer actually benefits from not settling a contract.  Knollenberg is one of the most anti-worker legislators in Lansing.  He doesn’t deserve a promotion to the State Senate.  Voters in the 13th District would be wise to choose Peltonen instead.

Note: This post is being updated as I hear of additional candidates.  Robert Kennedy, Bette Pierman, Tom Stobie, Fred Sprague, and Cyndi Peltonen did not appear in the original posting.

Posted in 2014 Election | Leave a comment

I Just Became a Registered Democrat. Here is Why.

The "Kicking Donkey" party logo is s...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just became a registered Democrat.  I’ve always leaned left, but I’ve never felt compelled to join a political party until now. However, I believe in a balance of power.  In the past, the traditional big money donors of the Republican Party have been balanced out by small donations from common folk and larger donations by unions.  Since Republicans in Lansing have weakened unions for their own political gain, all that stands in the way of Michigan workers becoming like third class passengers on the Titanic is the Democratic Party. Need proof that Democrats are on the side of workers while Republicans are on the side of wealthy CEO’s? Let’s compare Governor Snyder’s most recent campaign finance report to Mark Schauer‘s most recent campaign finance report.  The top 100 donors to Governor Snyder are people with titles like executive, president, chairman, publisher, CEO, CFO, and investment banker.  They are the people who benefited most from the 1.8 billion dollar tax break that Snyder signed into law his first year in office (the same year he admits to cutting school funding). Meanwhile, the occupations of Mark Schauer’s top 100 donors include several doctors and at least one writer, professor, educator, retired educator, pharmacist, and legal assistant. It’s not just who is donating that matters, it is how much they donate. Governor Snyder had just 2,227 total donations but they added up to over $651,000! Mark Schauer had 4,458 donations but he only took in about $143,000.  Even though Schauer had twice as many donors, he took in a half of a million dollars less! Now lets take a look at special interest money.  The largest amount that any one union donated this election cycle was about $71,000.  Union donations come from combining small donations from plumbers, steel workers, carpenters, teachers, and other organized workers. They do not come from union dues as some would like you to believe.  Meanwhile, big business has found another way to trump union donations.  Blue Cross Blue Shield employees escaped the special interest moniker by donating as individuals, and they gave over $112,000 to the Snyder campaign!  Employees of Michigan’s two biggest electrical companies donated $158,000 to the Snyder campaign!  This clearly shows that Republicans have weakened unions enough that a bunch of high level employees of a single corporation can donate more than all the union workers in a particular union.  Surprisingly, the conservative Mackinac Center for Public Policy provided all this information in their CAPCON newsletter. I believe that you have three options in the next 47 days.  If you believe in an economic policy that helped billionaires’ income grow 22% last year while the rest of us struggled to keep up with the cost of inflation then you should support Rick Snyder.  You could do nothing to help Mark Schauer win effectively supporting Rick Snyder.  Finally, you could get behind Mark Schauer and the Democratic Party.  However, you need to do more than vote.  You need to talk to people and explain to them why they too should support Democratic candidates this year.  You should strongly consider donating your time and money to a candidate.  You should get started now!  I made my choice.  Have you?

Posted in 2014 Election, Richard Snyder | Leave a comment

Tea Party Candidate Wants the Michigan Legislature to Follow Congress’ Example!

It appears that beating Democrats to a pulp in the State House over the past four years just isn’t enough for some conservatives.  Republican/Tea Party candidate Todd Courser, 82nd District, went on Off the Record last week and criticized Republican Speaker of the House Jase Bolger.  He didn’t criticize him for his central role in the ethical scandal that has become known as “Bolgergate.”  Instead, he criticized him for working too much (read at all) with Democrats!

English: Seal of the Speaker of the United Sta...

English: Seal of the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Courser told the panel he believes Republicans should follow the so called “Hastert Rule.”  The Hastert Rule requires that a majority of the majority be in favor of a bill before it can even be brought up for a vote!  This unwritten rule was put into effect in 2004 by U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.  The rule further limits the power of the minority party.  In fact, one could say it almost eliminates the need for the minority party.  The implementation of the Hastert Rule in congress has coincided with both hyperpartisianship and near paralyzation.  It should also be noted that the approval rating for Congress is only at 9%, the lowest on record.

So far Courser has only won the Republican Primary.  Although, he seems pretty confident about winning the November general election noting “it kind of changes the State House when there is the three of us coming in,” referring to fellow Tea Party primary winners Lee Chatfield and Aaron Miller.  It’s hard to believe that a moderate state like Michigan could be pulled even further to the right.  However, if Democrats don’t get control of something in December, these three Tea Partiers will make sure that Michigan is run more like Congress.  That will only add inefficiency to insult.

Posted in 2014 Election | Leave a comment

Mackinac Center’s Education Director Audrey Spalding’s Service on Charter School Board Raises Serious Questions

Audrey Spalding is the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s Director of Education Policy.  Like so many of today’s education reformers, Spalding has never been an educator, unless you count five months of teaching English in China.  Spalding majored in Journalism and Economics at the University of Missouri according to her Mackinac Center profile.  Prior to working at the Mackinac Center, she worked in Missouri for another anti-government think tank called the Show-Me Institute.  Spalding’s primary experience in education, Chinese aside, is writing about education as a reporter for the Columbia Missourian.  Spalding’s LinkedIn profile informs us that she was indoctrinated by the Charles Koch Institute in a program known as Liberty@Work.  The program “taught associates how to incorporate private-sector practices into the management of a non-profit organization.”

Spalding has had an opportunity to show us how to best “incorporate private-sector practices” in schools as the Treasurer of the Board of Directors of Taylor Preparatory High School (TPHS).  TPHS opened last fall with a freshmen and sophomore class.  TPHS is a for-profit charter authorized by Grand Valley State University (GVSU).  While both GVSU and the TPHS Board of Directors are supposed to offer oversight, the daily operation is left to a company called PrepNet.  PrepNet also leases the school building to TPHS for $20,000 a month!  PrepNet is an affiliate of National Heritage Academies (NHA) and both were founded by J.C. Huizenga.  Huizenga serves as a Grand Valley State University Foundation Director.  He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.  To summarize, Huizenga helps direct the Mackinac Center which puts out pro-charter propaganda, and then he makes money for himself and for GVSU when they open a new charter together.  Oh, and his work at the Mackinac Center makes him Spalding’s boss.  That sounds a lot like “private-sector practices” to me.

Since Spalding is the Mackinac’s Center’s educational watchdog, you would expect that TPHS would be in full compliance with all applicable laws, contracts, and policies.  According to the TPHS board minutes, only once has the board had the minimum five members necessary to be in compliance with their contract with Grand Valley State University.  Technically, the President of the Board should not have even called those meetings to order.  The President was a 23 year old named Cody Bailey who also has no education experience.  Bailey didn’t call the May or June Meetings to order because he wasn’t even in attendance.  Bailey’s term expired on June 30th, but it appears he checked out early.  The June minutes noted “Ms. Spalding shared her appreciation for Cody Bailey as a founding Board Member of Taylor Prep. The Board joined her in thanking Mr. Bailey for his term of service, and wished him well in the future.”  Bailey’s future actually started back in January when he began working for the Great Lakes Education Project, another conservative think tank that focuses on education policy and politics. Spalding Image

Let’s get back to Spalding though.  Spalding’s Facebook profile and Mackinac Center bio says she lives in Midland.  If that is the case, she lives about 139 miles from TPHS.  If she lives in Ann Arbor as her LinkedIn profile suggests, her commute to Taylor is still around 28 miles.  Why is this significant?  Taylor Preparatory’s board policy states that “The Board may consist of members of the community, parents, and educators.”  Clearly, Aubrey doesn’t meet any of those qualifications.  It would be interesting to  know how much of Spalding’s travel is being reimbursed by the school district.  I thought about pulling a Mackinac Center move and using a Freedom of Information Act request to find out that information.  However, I believe way too much of TPHS’ resources are being wasted already.

The kind of shenanigans going on at TPHS are similar to those recently uncovered at other charter schools by the Detroit Free Press.  The Free Press ran an entire series about accountability issues after a year long investigation.  Not surprisingly, Spalding wrote a piece for the Mackinac Center criticizing the Free Press series.  That controversy led the Michigan Department of Education to look further into the state’s charter schools.  Just this week Grand Valley was put on notice as being at risk for suspension by the Michigan Board of Education for a number of oversight issues as well as low academic performance (Taylor Preparatory’s only academic report shows that 8.3% of their students were proficient in Social Studies).  It’s not as if Grand Valley doesn’t know what is happening over at Taylor Preparatory High School.  They typically have a representative at their board meetings.  The representatives have been nice enough to bring the school GVSU stickers and a banner.  For all of their “oversight” efforts, GVSU takes about 3% of the school’s per pupil foundation allowance.  GVSU takes their cut before PrepNet gets their cut, an amount they haven’t disclosed as far as I can tell.  I guess whatever is left is used to educate TPHS students.

What is clear in all of this is that the attack on public schools by the Mackinac Center and the Great Lakes Education Project (read my post about them here) is not about advocating for quality government or quality schools.  It is about creating another revenue stream for guys like J.C. Huizenga.  Who knows, maybe Spalding’s heart is in the right place and she doesn’t realize that she is just a pawn for a bunch of old rich white guys who live in the greater Grand Rapids area.  Or, maybe she has aspirations of getting rich off students too.

Posted in Great Lakes Education Project, Mackinac Center, Schools | 2 Comments

August: When Kids Try to Make the Team and Teachers are Encouraged to Quit the Team

While school doesn’t start until after Labor Day, many students return to school in August to try out for a fall sports team.  Teachers also return to school in August to join their teaching team for professional development.  Yes, a teaching staff is also a team.  Teachers have a common mission which is to provide a great education for students.  At the same time, teachers need to earn a fair living so that they can provide for their own families.

We all know athletic teams operate under a set of rules.  The teaching team also operates under a set of rules known as a contract.  That contract comes by way of collective bargaining between the teachers association’s (union) bargaining team and the school district’s bargaining team.  The contract dictates the hours teachers work, the maximum number of students they will teach (their workload), their pay, and a whole bunch of other things.  An approved contract is then monitored for compliance by the school district and the teacher’s associations executive board.  The bargaining team and the executive board positions are mostly elected by the teachers much like sports teams captains are sometimes elected by their teammates.  The whole system is both democratic and fair to all parties.

Since Governor Snyder signed the so called right-to-work law, teachers now have another decision to make in August.  Besides deciding if they want to be on the teaching team for the year, they get to decide if they want to pay their fair share.  Those costs include the cost of bargaining the contract they will work under as well as any costs associated with the enforcement of that contract should one of the parties not play by the rules.  Unlike the players on a sports team, Federal rules mandate that teachers that don’t pay to be in the association still get the benefits!  It is a lot like a player being able to play in the games without ever coming to practice, maybe someday that will be known as right-to-play.  Maybe I’m bias though.  My coaches taught me that practice wasn’t optional and that that we all had to “pay our dues.”

Picture courtesy of a reader named Curt.
Picture courtesy of a reader named Curt.

 Sticking with the theme, the August opt out period has now become a political football.  The Michigan Education Association didn’t exactly promote how to quit the team last August after right-to-work became law.  Teachers who wanted to quit often had to seek out how to quit, much like educators teach students not to be passive and to seek out the answers they need in life.  Of course, many did nothing and then were surprised when they were still being billed for the services they were receiving.  This year, the conservative “think tank” the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (MCPP) has taken it on themselves to promote the August opt out window.  The MCPP would like teachers to be able to quit the team at anytime, but those aren’t the rules.  So, the MCPP has spent a lot of time promoting the August opt out window and has even sent mailings directly to teachers!

Return to funder.

Return to funder.

Michiganders should know that the Mackinac Center for Public Policy counts among its donors Michigan billionaire Dick DeVos.  DeVos has lead a long fight against public schools including the failed attempt at a voucher initiative in the year 2000.  Some of us had fun with the MCPP mailing. I sent mine directly back to Dick DeVos.  Others threw theirs in the trash or flushed them down the toilet.  Sadly, some will use the information to quit the team.

Anyone who has ever played on a team knows that not everyone is a team player.  Eventually, some of those players will quit the team because they expect to get something, usually playing time, without “paying their dues.”  Those type of players are never really concerned about the greater good.  The same is true for a handful of teachers in every school.  Even after the quitters quit, the rest of us teachers will continue to educate our children, support our families, and pay our fair share.  In my mind, that is how you win at this game.

Note: The title of this post was changed from “get to” to “are encouraged to.”

Posted in Mackinac Center, Right-to-Work, Schools | Leave a comment