When a letter promoting “National School Choice Week” crossed the desk of Royal Oak Mayor Mike Fournier, he turned his attention instead to his city’s public school district.
The letter requested Fournier to issue a proclamation in support of National School Choice Week, an organization that purports to “shine a positive spotlight on effective education options for every child… to raise public awareness of all types of education options for children.”
“I looked at it and thought, ‘Nope,’” Fournier said.
According to People for the American Way, National School Choice Week is a “massive nationwide public relations campaign backed by right-wing foundations and think tanks that support a range of efforts to divert funding from public schools.”
Fournier didn’t want to play even a small part in promoting efforts that drain public money away from local public schools. Instead, he issued a proclamation touting the dedication of Royal Oak Public Schools employees and administration. A separate proclamation honored local school board members.
“The schools are so critical to the success of our community, and they affect so many other factors in our quality of life – from safety to home values – we should be recognizing and applauding the school employees who make our schools what they are,” Fournier.
Although city mayors don’t have much to do with school funding or policies, Fournier’s wife is a teacher in Waterford and he’s been disturbed by aggressive state policies that treat public school employees as problems instead of solutions.
Fournier knows educators who’ve watched their pay drop to poverty levels due to step freezes and state-mandated health care premium increases.
“Clearly our Legislature doesn’t want to address the funding issue and everything else that’s wrong with the way we’re addressing education in this state,” Fournier said. “That, combined with recent events at the national level, motivated me to take a stand.”
Fournier said schools play the most significant role among all factors, “bar none,” in determining a community’s quality of life – a fact every mayor knows. He said he would encourage other municipal leaders to stand up in support of fully funded, quality public schools for all.
“Public education has gotten the short end of the stick, and if I can speak up about that in my small little way as Royal Oak mayor – whether it’s seen by 100 people or 1,000 – then I’m glad to do it.”