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Metro Detroit Greens (Wayne, Oakland & Macomb Counties)

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Comments on Prop 2 (Local Rule) are located lower on this page.

Comments on Prop. 1 (Vouchers)

Mike Madias:

State of Michigan Proposal 00-1 proposes fundamental changes in the way tax dollars are used for education. The proposal seeks to amend the state constitution, allowing Lansing to do certain things that are currently prohibited. Currently the state cannot support, directly or indirectly, any schools outside of the public school system. This proposal would lift that ban and allow for the indirect economic support of parochial schools, private schools and home learning.

This indirect support for private schooling is in the form of "vouchers" which are a lot like grocery store coupons that provide discounts on private school tuition, but also include serious tax breaks, grants and loans from the state. This is a major feature of the proposal, but it is not the most publicized feature. What is getting the most attention is the vouchers featured in this proposal.

Vouchers may be issued to parents whose children go to districts that had a high school graduation rate of 2/3 in the 1998-1999 school year. Either the local school board or an initiative voted on by the public could start the use of vouchers.

If issued, vouchers would only pay a sum no more than the cost that the state pays for an average per-pupil public cost. The state could pay out less. If the parent wanted to use the voucher, they would pay tuition to the private school and take a discount equal to the voucher face value. It would work like a "dollars off" grocery store coupon.

Indirect support by the use of vouchers is a limited program, limited to districts where the high school graduation rate was low in 98-99. But other indirect assistance to private and parochial schools would be unlimited.

Another provision of Proposal-001 would require teacher testing on academic subjects in the public schools and in the private schools that accept vouchers. It would be expected by parents that a math or science teacher would hold have a degree in math or science. This is not necessarily the case. Teacher's colleges currently teach "educational theory". That means that a teacher may be expert on "how to teach" and weak in math and science.

Since the teaching colleges turn out professional teachers, but not mathematicians and scientists, teachers fear that they might fail to pass such testing. But other teachers in private schools, those not involved with vouchers, will not have to face this type of testing.

Art Myatt:

Just the voucher part of Prop. 1 is bad enough. There is no "level playing field" now in the "market competition" among schools, and vouchers from the state will not create one.

The private schools are not required to accept every child who applies; nor would they be required to do so by this law. The private schools are not required to accept the amount of the voucher as full payment, or the amount of the voucher plus any fixed amount of money; but the public schools must do everything with not a cent more than is supplied by taxes. The private schools are not required to deal with a disruptive student within their system, but the public schools must. The private schools are not required to accept students with disabilities and then spend whatever it costs to make reasonable accommodations. They can pick and choose their students, but public schools cannot.

It is no surprise, given these differences, that private schools might, on average, have student bodies that do better academically than the public schools. It is no mystery. The private schools can eliminate the students who do not do well and those who cost too much. The public schools cannot. Vouchers by themselves would only further concentrate the difficult and expensive students in the public schools by helping into private schools only the students "acceptable" to the private schools. This does not solve any problems for the public schools.

Changing the Constitution so that the door is open for unlimited other "indirect" support of private schools, church-run or otherwise, is the less visible but more terrible face of this proposal. Imagine for a minute that it was a separate proposal to be voted up or down on its own merits, having no association with vouchers. It would stand no chance of being voted in, because it so obviously points straight to political favoritism between state legislators and selected churches. Without the attention being focused on vouchers, it would never be on the ballot in the first place.

Without question, the public schools have myriad problems, some schools or districts more than others. Sometimes these problems are political. Local school boards can be corrupt and ineffective. Detroit's was, before the state takeover, and it is not obvious that it is now substantially better. A child with parents who are unable or unwilling to help with academic development is not likely to do well in school. When the physical plant makes learning in school uncomfortable and the street environment makes going to school dangerous, neither potentially good students nor potentially good teachers will do well. When the whole system is underfunded because most of the neighborhoods in the city are impoverished, the resources to make these things better are difficult to come by. There is no easy solution.

It has been said that problems are not solved by throwing money at them. The people who say this do not seem to apply their attitude to the drug war, or to the military budget in general, or to the salaries and staff budgets for the Congress, or to corporate funding of campaigns and purchase of the services of elected officials. I do not believe this attitude should be applied to public schools, at least not until all public schools have financial equality with the successful, comfortable, prosperous ones. That is the direction we should be headed - not in the direction of taking tax money away from the public schools that most need it.

The vouchers of Prop. 1 are no solution at all. If this proposal passes, the vouchers will be an excuse to continue yet a while not solving the real problems. Some of the parents now struggling to make public schools better will indeed get their children out of these schools, and perhaps these particular children will benefit. The schools, and the society as a whole, will not. That's why I'm voting against Prop. 1, and why I think the Green Party should recommend voting against it.

Comments on Prop 1 (Vouchers) are located at the top of this page.

Comments on Prop. 2 (Local Rule)

Mike Madias:

The main issue of Proposal 2 has to do with the centralization or decentralization of the power vested in the State of Michigan Legislature.

Currently the Michigan State Legislature can enact a law that overrides the city ordinances and city charters of municipalities in the state. It would take a vote of 50% of the state house plus 1 vote and a 50% vote of the state senate plus one vote plus the governors signature for the state to override the city's authority.

Proposal 2 would require a 2/3 majority of the house and senate to do this. No one disputes the states right to step into local politics. All cities are chartered by the state government. Proposal 2 would not change that, but it would make it harder for the state to step in.

An example of this was the effort by the state to enact a law that gave the legislature the right to take over a number of school systems, including the school system of Highland Park, Pontiac, and Inkster Michigan. Approval of Proposal 2 would make it harder for the state to take over school districts and other local functions in municipalities.

There were a number of such state laws (that overrode local laws) that came into existence since March 1 of this year. Approval of Proposal 2 would allow all of these to be repealed quickly. They would have to be enacted again and this time with higher vote requirements.

Art Myatt:

For a Green, it is easy to decide how to vote on Prop. 2. Yes. There it is, right there in that list of key values - decentralization, right in between nonviolence and community-based economics. The fact that Gov. Engler and the equally lovable Brooks Patterson (Chief Executive of Oakland County) are fervently opposed to Prop. 2 is just icing on the cake.

Passing Prop. 2 would mean that if, here and there in Michigan, we are successful with some of our early efforts in grassroots democracy, it will be more difficult for the state bureaucracy and legislature in Lansing to nullify our efforts. Not impossible, but more difficult. Of course, there may be some local political efforts that we do not like, such as losing a referendum on human rights. Even in that case, the solution will be to keep organizing locally; it removes the temptation to appeal to a higher authority.

The origin of this proposition seems to be a reaction to recent events affecting mostly Detroit. Detroit Recorder's Court was dissolved into the Wayne County court system. The Detroit School Board was dissolved by the state legislature, and the schools were placed under effective control of the state government. The local residence requirement for city employees was overturned at the state level.

The city was no model of democratic practice before, but it is clearly being moved in the direction of Occupied Detroit and yes, race has a lot to do with it. Racism is not out in the open (Engler and his pals generally keep their robes tucked in their pants), but the fact that most of the population of Detroit and most officials elected there are black apparently makes Engler a little ... apprehensive.

Prop. 2 is not just Archer's revenge, though it is that. Plenty of other local mayors and such could see the handwriting on the wall, could feel their local power and their importance in the scheme of things ... shrinking. So a kind of split has developed in the power elite throughout the state. That's fine with me. I'm willing to take advantage of splits, stupidity, arrogance, ignorance, or any other type of bad judgment among political careerists who have no interest in deep democracy.

Passage of Proposition 2 would mean that, when democratic contests are fought out on a local scale, it is more difficult to have the results reversed at the state level. This is just exactly the situation that helps us organize against globalism. Cool. Vote yes.

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