Monday, November 30, 2009

Frustrated Parents Holding Bake Sales for Michigan School Funding

Remember the old quote attributed to Robert Fulghum that said, "It will be a great day when the schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber"? You can buy that t-shirt on closeout right now - but you might want to hurry before the peddlers of pithy sayings on merchandise discover that, at least in Michigan, what's old is suddenly new again.

They've rallied in Lansing. They've written their legislators. Now frustrated parents have taken a new tack in the fight to get funding for their children's schools: They're having a bake sale.

Across Michigan from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, parent-teacher associations plan to hold bake sales outside grocery stories, community centers, post offices and even on the steps of the state Capitol.

Just like the old slogan, this idea for a sale came out of increasing frustration with the misplaced priorities of our elected officials. It's not necessarily about raising money; it's to prove the point that legislators are not listening to their constituents when it comes to school funding - and parents are angry. Legislators need to check the quote at the end of this next section, and then ask yourselves just how in the world you intend to get this person out to vote for you or your party next year.

The idea was born in the hours after a statewide rally earlier this month in Lansing, in which parents and educators fought against the funding cuts. Among them was Karen Kline, a Royal Oak parent. She left that rally discouraged after talking directly to some legislators because "there was nothing coming out that made me feel there was any hope."

Parents are doing this now to raise awareness - and they would be wise to turn their attention and energy to supporting a ballot proposal next. There is a reason why the legislature can't offer any hope. It doesn't exist.

Mike Bishop has already indicated that Senate Republicans will not put forth any ideas until they figure out what they can get Dillon to give up next, and Dillon won't move tax reform until he gets consensus with the teabaggers, who are sworn to oppose everything that the Democrats want to do, doesn't matter if it's a good idea or not. Whatever comes out of that dynamic is going to be a disaster, as we have seen repeatedly over the past three years.

The latest proof that nothing moves in Lansing without the approval of Mike Bishop came last week. As you may have heard, Alma Wheeler Smith put forth the first solid tax reform proposal for funding schools, using ideas such as expanding the sales tax to services, a graduated income tax, eliminating the MBT surcharge - all popular, and pretty much agreed upon by the experts as the direction we need to go - and Dillon immediately deferred to the Senate.

While Dillon applauded Smith for putting a proposal on the table, he said the revenue she has projected would not make it through the Legislature.

"I'm pretty sure there's no appetite for that in the Senate," he said.

So, don't even try. Don't fight, don't make any legislative moves, don't say a word in support of the schools, let's just wait for that magical "bipartisanship" to happen, even though the Republicans have more than indicated that "bipartisanship", to them, means, "do everything we want, or we say no". Think anything good will come out of that attitude?

Smith acknowledged that House Tax Policy Committee Chair Rep. Kate Ebli (D-Monroe) has a workgroup looking at some of the tax changes Ms. Smith has proposed. "I think it's in a holding pattern," she said of the workgroup. "I think we need to be moving forward."

And she laid the blame for that holding pattern on House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford Twp.), who is also mulling a Democratic bid for governor. "I think he's waiting for something," she said. "I don't know what it is."

What it is, Dillon told Gongwer News Service, is a consensus on a tax plan.


Dillon said he also has avoided, to this point, putting out any plan of his own or supporting any particular plan. "If it becomes a House Democratic plan, it becomes a political fight," he said. "I'd rather get a consensus."

Yes, by all means, let's keep "politics" out of politics. Going into a huge election year. OK. That will happen. And on top of that willful denial of reality, nothing says "delusional" like those who refuse to learn from past lessons. Although Mike Bishop lied about a deal and broke an agreement with Dillon in 2007, and then turned broke another agreement with Dillon in 2009, for some reason Andy still thinks that "consensus" is possible with those who are sworn to destroy him. And us. Makes it obvious as to why people feel there is "no hope" coming out of Lansing, and why the enthusiasm gap continues to grow for Democrats. If you don't try, you can't win. And Michigan will lose.

Smith has set a date of January 30th for movement on her bills, but we have already seen the answer from legislative "leadership", time and time again. There is no reason to expect that will change, so there is no need to wait.

Parents, to the ballot mobile - as quick as you possibly can.