Snyder gives himself an 'A' despite attacks on education

Governor Snyder used much of his State of the State address to pat himself and fellow Republicans on the back for their efforts to reinvent Michigan last year. But his call to “finish what we started” lacked specifics—especially when it came to education.

Noting that a state college readiness rate of 17 percent is unacceptable, Snyder called on the Legislature to authorize an Education Achievement Authority (EAA) to turn around the state’s poorest performing schools by this September.

But that’s only part of what these schools need. Many of them are struggling because they don’t have basic resources to improve student achievement. Benton Harbor Schools is a good example, and thanks to the efforts of MEA leaders, members and staff last month to collect needed school supplies, they now have more of the basic tools they need.

Even though Snyder stressed that “our children are our future and we need to make sure they’re not just college ready but career ready,” those words come across as disingenuous given last year’s $1 billion cut to education, attacks on school employee due process and collective bargaining rights, and removal of the cap on charter schools.

And this year the Legislature is looking to throw open the doors to for-profit companies with the expansion of cyber schools and eliminating the Personal Property Tax which helps fund education. How does any of this help prepare our children for the future?

Moving students to greater levels of achievement isn’t corporate takeovers of public schools through more charters, cyber schools, or voucher schemes. It’s considering the research that says small class sizes, better teacher training, more parental involvement and adequate supplies help students succeed.

“When you slash schools to pay for a $1.8 billion tax cut for corporation special interests, you’re putting CEOs ahead of our kids, and that’s just plain wrong,” said MEA President Steve Cook. “Michigan can’t afford to dig the hole any deeper for our schools and communities. Eliminating the Personal Property Tax would do just—taking another $1.2 billion away from education and public safety and handing it over to corporate special interests. Doing that once last year was wrong—doing it again this year would be unforgivable and destructive.”

Snyder has already promised no more direct cuts to education funding, but the elimination of the Personal Property Tax for businesses would result in $400 million less for schools. He also has no plans to use any of the state’s projected $457 million budget surplus to restore any lost funding to public schools, despite calls to do so. 

There was no further indication that the attacks on public education, the middle class and unions would end in 2012. And despite Snyder’s pleas for all of us to come together and end the partisanship, many legislators have made it clear that “Right to Work” is on their agenda—a divisive move that does nothing to create jobs and help Michigan workers.

Snyder’s other goals for 2012 include modernizing Michigan’s transportation system, roads and infrastructure; public safety; completing a new bridge to Canada without the use of Michigan tax dollars; Pure Michigan Fit, a partnership with Gerber to address childhood obesity; and addressing campaign finance laws and ethics.

He will be delivering a special message to the Legislature on public safety in March and on energy and the environment in the fall.