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Elections Have Consequences… Unless the GOP Loses

December 8, 2018

This article by Ron French that appeared in “The Bridge – Michigan’s non-partisan news source”, describes how Michigan’s GOP Legislature, having lost the Statehouse, is now scrambling to pass legislation that dis-empowers the incoming Governor and undercuts the powers of the State Board of Education. The timing of this legislation to effectively change the governance of the state schools is bad enough, but the way the legislation is framed is even worse!

The effort to create a new education commission is tucked into Republican-backed education reform efforts. House Bill 5526 would create an A-to-F grading system for public schools. House Bills 6314 and 6315 would create Public Innovation Districts that wouldn’t have to comply with state regulations on classroom hours of instruction.

The reform bills are unrelated, but each mandates creation of a 13-member Education Accountability Policy Commission that would have broad power over schools.The commission would, for instance, determine the fate of schools that earn an A or an F. (Broadly speaking, Republicans have urged the closure or reduction of funds for low-performing schools while Democrats have pushed for more investment in struggling schools, which often are filled with low-income students who need more academic support.)

Under the… bills, the proposed commission would also determine just how far “public innovation districts” can stray from class-time regulations mandated for traditional public schools. The bill is meant to allow schools more freedom in how they approach education ‒ allowing, for example, students to get credit for internships that might otherwise keep them from meeting state requirements for the number of hours they must be in class….

Grabbing power away from the new Democratic administration “is the whole plan,” said Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor, who serves on the House Education Reform Committee. “There are three weeks left in his (Snyder’s) term. And he’d be filling positions that would be filled through the end of Whitmer’s first term. It’s hard to argue you’re not doing it to take power away from the next individual.”

A commission with power over school accountability would look very different under the control of Republicans versus Democrats. A progressive commission would likely push for additional money to failing schools; a conservative commission might give bonuses to schools with high standardized test scores, and close schools with low marks, as Bill Schuette, the losing Republican candidate for governor, proposed during his campaign.

“The commission could shut down a whole host of schools across the state, and most citizens are going to blame the governor when in reality the next governor had no control over it,” Zemke said. “An unelected body that doesn’t report to the executive is … quite scary.”

Unsurprisingly both the current State Board and the incoming Governor are flagging these elements of the bill, protesting them, and threatening lawsuits. But should the legislation pass, the Democrats and the State Board will be hamstrung until their suits work their way through the courts and the GOP will achieve its REAL goal, which is to stymie any efforts to undo what they have wrought over the past several years.

There was a time when the will of the voters was respected… but that time ended when the GOP began to lose power. Senate leader Mitch McConnell set the course for his party when, after Barack Obama was elected, he stated that he would do everything in his power to make sure he was a one-term President,  a promise he kept as the GOP was unified in opposing every action President Obama undertook to improve the economy. Democracy depends on good sportsmanship whereby the losers graciously accept defeat and accede to the will of the voters. The GOP’s actions since 2008 are corroding democracy.


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