Friday, December 7, 2018

MI: Baldfaced Power Grab

Lansing is witnessing one of the most extraordinary power grabs ever attempted, and one of the targets of these lame duck Republicans is the state board of education.

Several actions are being attempted by the legislature, and they include an attempt to complete supplant the constitutionally established and democratically elected state board of education.

The move to overturn the democratic process is not unusual for either education or Michigan. Reeformsters have long used the move of pushing aside, dissolving, or neutering elected school boards, and Michigan also has s history of appointing "emergency managers" to strip power from locally elected officials (think Flint and how well that worked out).

Lansing in the winter, with bitter GOP sadness in the air
But generally speaking, these power grabs have two main characteristics-- one is that the voters who are stripped of their voting power are usually black or brown, and the other is that some sort of noble pretense is offered (such as the ever-popular "we're doing this For The Children).

But in Michigan, the GOP is prepared to negate the votes of an entire state (even the white folks). And in Michigan, the masks are off. As in Wisconsin, where a similar GOP revolt against democracy is under way, there is not even a thin veil of reasoning for the power grab. The argument is simple-- the Democrats are going to have power, and we don't want them to.

In fairness to the Michigan coup leaders, there's also an element of "They never obey me." The state board is about two shift from a 4-4 GOP-Dem makeup to a 6-2 spoilt favoring Democrats, but the board seems to have a history of mostly non-partisan activity. While most folks might describe that as  "working well," Rep. Tim Kelly (R) describes that as not working at all.

“The state board is not doing their jobs,” Kelly said. “It’s time to move forward.”

Mind you, that is "their jobs" as defined by Kelly, who has longstanding beefs with the board, having previously tried to kill it entirely. And "move forward" apparently means "overturn the will of the voters of Michigan."

The plan cals for creating what would essentially be a second appointed state board of education which would exercise powers stripped from the current elected board. In particular, Kelly sees the Education Accountability Policy Commission implementing "innovation districts" that would implement competency based education right away. The state board has been dragging their feet on CBE (even going so far as to bring in some education writer/blogger from Pennsylvania to talk about why CBE would be a bad idea). The current governor was a fan of CBE, but the New Democratic governor might not be quite so excited about it. Hence the "need" too create a GOP-run board that would push this troubled-yet-profitable reformy idea.

Kelly claims the innovative districts would be the very ultimate in local control. Kelly is full of it. First of all, unless every one of these future "innovation zone" districts has been clamoring for CBE, then the first act of this "local control" move will be for the state's unelected shadow board of education to impose a new, untested, unproven educational system on the local school district. That's the opposite of local control. Then, since modern CBE is most often a computer-based program delivered and controlled by an outside vendor, it is a system that is at odds with local control. It will make a bunch of people a bunch of money, but it will not give control to the local district. Kelly is full of something, and it's not Michigan snow.

Of course, if Kelly really believes in his policy, there's a path to getting it made into law-- have a bunch of people stand for election and let the voters say they want to see the policy enacted. But because he doesn't think his ideas will have traction under the administration that the voters actually elected, he's figuring to just ram it through now. If you're wondering how Kelly got to have such strong education ideas-- well, he was an education advisor to Governor Engler in Michigan, moving from Indiana to take the job (and after he worked in the asphalt business). Kelly was also in line for a job at Betsy DeVos's Department of Education until it turned out he had made blog posts insulting, among others, Muslim women, Head Start parent, and women in science.

Michigan schools are a mess, near the bottom of the nation by just about any measure you care to use. But Michigan has also been a happy playground for reformers like Ed Secretary Betsy DeVos and Rep. Tim Kelly. They have had their way for over a decade, and their policies have failed. But ed reform has always been in part about shutting down democracy for Certain People, so it's no surprise too see that used as a last-ditch attempt to keep reformsters in power in Michigan.

At any rate, if I were a Michigan voter, I would get on the phone and let my representatives know that   I would like to have the government that Michigan taxpayers actually voted for, and not the one that some sad, defeated Republicans want to impose by fiat. Tell your rep that Michigan does not need a second board of education-- certainly not one that was never elected to the post or assigned powers by the state constitution.

1 comment:

  1. Isn't this pretty much what happened to Glenda Ritz in Indiana?