The GOP War on Education: A Case Example

Michigan – Do you really want to know what Republicans think of public education? You have to look no further than the school district Buena Vista, a small community adjacent to Saginaw, Michigan. This Tuesday, people were shocked when it saw its school district suddenly shut down indefinitely. The closure followed the announcement by the school board on Monday night that it could no longer make payroll and its 27 teachers were laid off and all their benefits were terminated. Many questions remain unanswered while children remain at home and residents remain in shock.

An emergency public meeting was held Tuesday night which drew a crowd of about 100 parents, teachers and students who expressed anger and mistrust toward the school and state officials implementing the surprise shutdown. A list of questions and answers were passed out to those in attendance but officials refused to answer any questions not on the list.

The story for the board is that Buena Vista School District was mistakenly provided more than $500,000 from the state of Michigan to run a juvenile detention education program that is closed, so the state is now withholding all of the district’s funding for the months of April, May and June and part of July in order to recover the expenditures.

Many important questions could not be answered like: “Will high school seniors be able to graduate this year?”, “Why did the board spend the money meant for [juvenile detention program] Wolverine Center when it no longer existed?”, “why are children paying the price for an error by the school board?”…

Parents have demanded to know what the money had been spent on, but after attending the Tuesday emergency meeting, one parent noted. “it is clear that state and local officials have been—and continue to be—working hand in glove.”

A May 1 posting on the Buena Vista school district website states that the district is “taking the first steps toward confirming a financial emergency under Michigan Public Act 436”, which is the Emergency Manager law rammed through state congress after voters defeated an almost identical measure in November 2012. This was not mentioned at the public meeting.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s 2012 budget cut $1 billion from education statewide, while providing $1.8 billion in tax cuts to businesses. It was also recently revealed that a secret panel in the Snyder administration has been working with technology company executives behind the back of the public on a plan to establish so-called “value schools” which would operate on $2,000 less per student than the current state minimum by replacing teachers with long-distance video-conferencing technology.

Buena Vista is an unincorporated community whose population was around 8,000 at the time of the 2010 census. Most of the residents and students are African American. More than a third of its children lived below the official poverty level.

Attacks on public education and teachers have become a target by the GOP. It seems to be open season on public education. Across the nation, in red states, education takes a beating as taxes are funneled to tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. The GOP war on education continues!




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