Anti-teacher freeloaders

Full disclosure time. I am a proud teacher and a very proud union member. I realize that that’s a double whammy for a lot of you out there. Teachers have been demonized. Unions have been demonized. Sadly, a lot of folks have bought into that process — probably without thinking much about it. To be sure, public school teachers and union members pose a threat to the political agenda of some very rich and powerful people. As such, my profession is subjected to constant attacks by those for whom a good public education is problematic. With the help of Frank Foster, Greg McMaster, Howard Walker, and other enemies of public education, Gov. Rick Snyder, under the direction of the Mackinac Center, has systematically worked to defund public education and to attack the Michigan Education Association. I see one of the governor’s favorite solutions, the Educational Achievement Authority (EAA), as an unmitigated disaster for our state. Fraud, corruption, and darn little achievement have marked this controversial effort to steal local control of schools from parents and communities. 

In spite of its failures, the Republican-controlled legislature is looking to expand the EAA into even more districts. The voice of the people is systematically being silenced, and not in the effort to achieve anything positive for the children of this state. With the muzzling of local voices comes an expansion of private solutions which create tremendous profits for those with access to the Governor. And, like it or not--the First Amendment or not—more and more religion will be forced down our children’s throats as Dick Devos, the Oxford Foundation, and the Mackinac Center redesign “public” education to meet their personal financial and religious goals.


That’s my full disclosure. I am a staunch enemy of the enemies of public education. While there are flaws in what is surely the foundation of our democracy, that flawed system is still our best bet to protect the interests of we, the people.

So when the Mackinac Center began its campaign during the last month to encourage teachers to drop their union membership, I wasn’t surprised. I have talked about the Mackinac Center and I have successfully shown how they are not a legitimate non-partisan think tank.  I have debunked all of the Mackinac Center’s claims to being non-partisan. I called them out on having never published an article in a peer-reviewed journal. And their response claimed that all of their work is peer-reviewed. And, like disgraced 1988 presidential candidate Gary Hart, knowing they were lying, they challenged all of us to check them out. I did. And of course, the only reviewing done of Mackinac Center work is by employees or contractors of the Mackinac Center itself. I believe they are intellectual frauds and no one outside of their philosophical circle takes them seriously.

What did surprise me is that the Mackinac Center is using tax subsidies and postage subsidies to finance their attack on public education and teaching. Isn’t this the “free market” champion that rejects “freeloaders” in our system? And yet on a mail piece sent to teachers last month, they asked us to help pay the postage by using a nonprofit mailing permit. The U.S. government allows legitimate nonprofits to mail at cheaper rates to aid in their fundraising and other activities, but this privilege is expressly denied for political causes. Now how the Midland Postmaster allowed this mailing to go out is a question he’ll have to answer, but it sure seems to me like the Mackinac Center is not following either the letter or the spirit of the rules governing nonprofit organizations.

Earlier in the month they used public school emails to send a commercial message to teachers urging them to quit the union. This is the same Mackinac Center that persuaded our GOP-dominated state legislature to ban schools from collecting union dues because it cost those schools money to do the collection. (This, of course, is false, since all payroll is electronic anyway, but Frank Foster and the rest of the GOP caucus aren’t really ones to let the facts get in the way of a good union attack.) Instead, the Mackinac Center used public school employee time by using the Freedom of Information Act to acquire teacher emails.

In what seems to me to be a clear violation of the rules governing IRS code 501(c)3 organizations, the Mackinac Center is actively promoting political positions with our tax dollars. If you’re as fed up with them as I am, I urge you to get on the IRS website and file Form 13909 documenting the Mackinac Center’s violations of their tax-exempt status. Again, I have no problem dealing with the hypocrisy and intellectual fraud propagated by the Mackinac Center. I do have a problem with them using my tax dollars to promote their agenda. And so should you.

Published in the Petoskey News 6/25/14 


As we descend--and let's make no mistake about it, it is a descent--deeper into this market-based approach to education/public schooling (i.e. for profit on-line learning options and for profit charter schools), we need to remember that efficiency models (market theory) create winners and losers. Even if competition and choice drive an overall improvement in quality (something many local school districts have seen with the emphasis on choice (AP, IB, CSI, dual enrollment, early college, etc.) in recent years, "that improvement has been (predictably) inequitable and the overall gains have come (to an extent) at the expense of the further diminishment of opportunities and attainment for the most disadvantaged students" (Lubienski's "The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools").

It seems, that while our speciality programs (AP, IB, CSI, dual-enrollment, early college enrollment, etc.) have benefitted high achievers and the academically advantaged, they have isolated low-achievers and (unsurprisingly) have widened the achievement gap.  In short, institutionalizing this market-based approach (even at just the local level) has created winners and losers--as it always does. 

This has been reflected by the growing achievement gaps between the highest and lowest performing students within even affluent districts like Troy, Birmingham, and Grosse Pointe. That this achievement gap between students within a school or district is being mirrored statewide between schools in disadvantaged districts (that have since been invaded by the EAA) was an inevitability given the free market model being promoted by our Governor and Legialature. It is precisely what free markets do: they create winners and losers.

So the real issue is whether or not we--as constituents--want an educational system that institutionalizes inequality and disparity of opportunity. If you prefer the current market-based approach, you are voting for an inequitable system that will determine a large percentage of kids, schools, and districts losers so that a few (already advantaged) students, schools, districts can be declared winners. If you prefer the traditional public school model, then you are voting for a system in which a local community of children, families, teachers, and district leaders works to maximize students' potential. 

I vote for the latter. 



I'm so tired of the attack on teachers. Agreed, the political machine is out of control. Ask them to do our job at our pay for 1 school year. If they still think it's all good, I'll listen and engage in a conversation of the state of education. Otherwise, they need to get off their high horse and get real. 

Here's my simple but I think effective thought. If you work in a factory making a pencil and you receive faulty wood, broken lead, torn erasers, and miscolored paint but were expected to produce a quality pencil, what would you do? Easy, go to the people who sent you the faulty parts and tell them to send you the right product so you can make a quality pencil. Why then are we blaming teachers when the product they receive is broken, torn, or any other way that's not prepared to be a quality learner? Shouldn't we be blaming the place where the faulty parts come from? Why aren't we looking at parents? That's how we will clean up our low scores and lack of student learning. Please send me a child who respects adults, does their work, and works at their best. If you can't do that, stop blaming me when they fail. 

Just completed and e-mailed Form 13909 to the IRS. Using the information from the article and looking up a couple pieces of information about Mackinac Center, I was able to complete it very quickly.  I urge others to do the same!

This was tried 2 years ago, and apparently it failed because they continue to be identified as nonprofit. I will complete a form and send it in as well.

Mac Center is a red herring.  We need real reform.  A radical change to the system where public school parents must pay a portion of their child's educational cost.  Parents will become more involved if they have financial skin in the game.  Expand school of choice to allow parents to send kids to any school in their county and run districts at the county level.  Shut down poorly adminstered school when school population drops below sustainable levels. 

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