21 June 2011

Gov Synder's Amazing, Astounding Educational Reform Plan for Michigan

Once again, Gov. Synder proved that his Michigan is Wisconsin with a vague smile. Today the Governor announced his plan to fix public education in Detroit in a carefully scripted performance that included all the usual suspects getting their time in the spotlight. All the players were there: the Gov, the retired GM exec who is running the district, the head of the largest local foundation and her hand-picked and heavily funded parent representative, a state representative, the basketball buddy/Chicago political hack who is furthering George Bush's Education plans phoned it in from DC, the State Superintendent of Education, and a apology in the place of an absent mayor, which may be his best possible contribution. All parties involved in the Detroit public schools were on the scene, save one. Teachers. Not a teacher in sight. I guess only education experts were involved.

To be fair to the Gov, he's not used to including workers in his thinking. When he crashed Gateway, the workers weren't consulted. He was too busy collecting his millions and preparing to bring his expertise to running the state, after a few years making more millions playing with money in the markets. The new Emergency Financial Manager, isn't accustomed to listening to workers either. At GM, workers were sloughed off by the thousands so that the company could be saved from joining Gateway in the economic slag heap. And we all know that being a GM exec makes you a wiz at turning around a failing operation while having your funding from the government cut. No throwing money at the problem for GM. Just sound business thinking.

But back to the plan. If the devil is in the details, the devil was nowhere near this performance. Lots of talk about "accountability," but nothing about how accountability is to be measured and who will decide the definition of accountability. But accountability is good, and a lack of accountability is bad, so accountability it is. As a teacher, I fully support accountability. All I ask is for a tiny percentage, say 10%, of the money that Synder got when he was accountable for driving Gateway into the ground. I'll need it since Synder has cut the length of unemployment coverage in a state with a tremendous unemployment problem. Oh, and while the Michigan Republicans are hacking away at my retirement and health care, I hope they leave with a small percentage of the retirement and health care that Roberts left GM with.

I'll attach the plan and you can read it for yourself. If you suffer from asthma or migraines, look out for the smoke and flashing mirrors. The plan is delightfully free of details. Just a little tip, when they talk about principal's choosing their own staff, what they mean is teachers have no rights. When this process of education "reform" winds down, public education will be devastated, teacher salaries, benefits, and working conditions will be worse than they are today, and one of the cornerstones of democracy in America, neighborhood public schools, will be a memory. At heart, this plan is a machine to destroy public education. It is a charter school generator, with all the problems that entails. If you want to see accountability problems, Governor, give your plan ten years. By then, it will take a flotilla of Federal attorneys to root out the corruption and mismanagement in the charter school system.

I have a simple question for all the rich and powerful folks who have taken a proprietary interest in public education. When your company wasn't going so well and you needed talented people to help turn it around, did you publicly abuse them, cut their salaries, and reduce their benefits? Hey Gov, when you ran for office, did you cut the pay of the political consultants you hired? I thought not. I guess this is what they mean when you say teachers are special.