Here’s an editorial I penned but withheld from publishing in August of 2006. Four years of waiting and watching have only made me more convinced of what it says . . .
“If someone had the specific intent to harm public schools and their communities, they could hardly do more than what has occurred in this state during the past dozen years:
“1. They would make it unlawful for local citizens to raise their local property taxes to operate their local public schools, thus weakening them and their surrounding neighborhoods.
“2. They would adopt laws to divert precious resources for local public schools to alternative schools that are relieved of the responsibility to educate all children regardless of their special needs.
“3. They would try to divert even more of those precious resources for local public schools by subsidizing children to attend other schools which do not have many of the legal responsibilities placed on traditional, ‘full-service’ local public schools and actually re-segregate schools.
“4. They would replace the requirement for a minimum number of school days per year with a minimum number of instructional minutes per year which, when coupled with funding shortages, has caused our local public schools to abandon the march from 180 toward 200 school days and to now retreat toward 170, 165 or even fewer school days.
“5. They would make it unlawful for schools to teach students in classrooms until after Labor Day. Any local public school that would dare to give classroom instruction to the thousands of eager, enthusiastic, excited students who want to get started with the best part of their life, in August, would be breaking the law.
“Could you conjure up a much worse menu for local public school success than this? Could you make Michigan public education look any worse in comparison to the rest of the nation, or the rest of the world?
“If we expect to attract and hold college graduates and business and industry in Michigan, if we expect to revitalize small towns and urban neighborhoods, it will be by strengthening our local public schools and reversing or rejecting these mistakes of public policy. We won’t encourage schools to reduce the days on which they teach kids; we won’t penalize schools which want to teach kids who want to learn, regardless of the month; we won’t give their funding to other schools.
“If Michigan wants to get the attention and admiration of the nation and world, we must first create and then promote a system of local public education – preschool through Ph.D.s – at least worthy, if not world class. It would consist of at least 200 instructional days for all children in our K-12 public schools, with a state foundational grant that keeps pace with inflation and has no limitations on supplemental funding through voluntary local assessments. Merit pay to teachers would be the norm, but their pension and insurance plans would become more normal as well. Salaries would be increased to attract top professionals, but teachers would lose their sense of entitlement to benefit packages that guarantee them at retirement full pay and medical insurance for life that is bankrupting many school districts.
“As the politicians posture and the educational communities cower at the start of the school year and the end of another election cycle, I want it known: I’m not happy. I want change. And I don’t think I’m alone. But we can’t find anyone to vote for.
“Mine is neither a conservative nor liberal view. Frankly, I’m sick of both labels and the polarizing of the political parties. My view is that of a Michigan citizen who wants and expects Michigan to do much more for local public school students and the neighborhoods in which they live. We have gutted both for years. It’s time we stop shooting ourselves in the foot; it’s time instead to shoot for the stars: the strongest local public schools in America, encircled by vibrant small towns and urban neighborhoods.
“Michigan and its many communities can be restored to good health and even greatness. The traditional local public school – which in spite of some warts has been largely responsible for building the United States into the strongest yet most compassionate democracy in the world’s history – will be at the center of this revival in Michigan.”