Thursday, June 23, 2011

Michigan Governor Means To Shutter Public Schools

After a fire in January 2008, the James McMillan Elementary School, Detroit's oldest, stands bruised and battered at 615 South West End Avenue in the Delray neighborhood. photo: Inside Southwest
22-MAR-12:I wrote the piece below as satire, but not satire enough, I guess. The story appears to be coming true as Detroit melts down economically, and the Republican legislature invokes "Starve the Beast" and "Shock Doctrine" on the city. The state appointed an "emergency manager" (highly paid, well-connected consultant) to figure out what is wrong with the schools in Detroit (under-funded, under-subscribed, staff under-paid, board overfed). The answer, of course, is to privatize and bust unions -- how could there be any other answer from a Republican appointed hatchet man. Thus, the Republican legislature duly created the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan(EAA), chaired by none other than Mr. Roberts, the emergency manager. The EAA will function as a distinct school district (see: "Six Detroit high schools, 9 elementary schools transferred to new statewide school system," Detroit Free Press, 13-Mar-12), but without geographical boundaries. Ostensibly, it will incorporate the "worst of the worst" schools from Detroit Public Schools and other systems around the state. And who decides which Detroit schools are pushed into the EAA, and eventually privatized and non-unionized? Mr. Roberts, our good emergency  manager and chair of the EAA -- no conflict of interest there. So, at the expense of students, Detroit will now enrich shareholders in these "charter" ventures, kids will not be educated any better, but Republicans will have stuck it to school board, and gained a new source of morally-tainted campaign contributions to fund their nutcase campaign ads.

23-JUN-11: Michigan governor, Dick Snooter, released a proposal today to end funding for public schools in Michigan beginning with the next school year in September, 2011. All public school staff, teachers as well as administrators and maintenance crews, will be dismissed and replaced with new hires employed by for-profit charter schools. The charter schools will be administered by corporations who will bid on contracts to run schools on a per district basis. According to Governor Snooter, the state will save money at the same time that the corporate run schools will make money for their capitalized shareholders.

"We expect that education will become cheaper as companies compete to make a profit herding...I should say, shepherding...children through the grades, and when it comes to social programs, cheaper is always better." Governor Snooter said. "What is important to remember here is how well private, for-profit prisons and health care work for us now. This will do the same thing for education. In fact, some of the same companies that run our prisons will bid to run our schools, too."

Governor Snooter did acknowledge that because the new schools will be profit driven, less money will be available for books, teacher salaries, and school overhead, so students will be asked to pay a nominal tuition fee each year to make up the difference. "We think paying tuition will be good for the kids and the parents. It will force them to put a value on education, and not take it for granted."

"The cost of tuition is not expected to grow faster than the cost of private health care, around 4.9% per year, so if you pay the projected $1,000 per student today, that price will double in about 15 years," said an aide to the governor, F. Arty Blasdt. "And surely anyone with a real job can afford that. Of course, the growth rate could be much higher, who knows?" he added.

The governor also acknowledged that while the parents of some children might not be able to pay tuition to send their kids to school, he suggested perhaps those kids might be home-schooled with less ambitious goals in mind, like picture recognition rather than reading, and limiting math to addition and subtraction of numbers less than ten, with weightier subjects like multiplication and division left to children enrolled in charter schools. "Besides," the governor added, "most of these kids don't have health insurance, so it's a liability to have them attend school. It's better for everyone if they just stay home." And if an entire district is too poor to pay tuition? "That would be great news." The Governor said, adding, "We'll shut that district down, and funnel the money we save into expanded corporate tax cuts."

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