I believe our schools are perfect reflections of the communities they serve. The best and most reliable predictor of student's performance on standardized tests is the economic health and vitality of the community in which he/she lives. Our failing schools are but symptoms of a failed economic system that has eviscerated the middle class and moved wealth to the top. When families and communities struggle and fail, our schools suffer the consequences.
Many of us remember Benton Harbor during the boom years during the 30-year postwar period. Benton Harbor High School had honors academic courses and arts programs that were the envy of every other school system. The difference was a vibrant, stable economy that served as a foundation for families, neighborhoods and communities. An economically stable family can provide a foundation for student support and high expectations.
As your Representative, I will support and strengthen public education.
In Lansing, the Republican wrecking crew has been on a tear, doing all they can to destroy public education in Michigan.
Just a brief overview of some of the damage they have wrought:
Their approach has been a "death by a thousand cuts:"
-Cut school funding by $1 billion
-Removed seniority as a factor in layoff and recalls;
-Gave Emergency Managers unlimited power to reduce salary and benefits and void contracts;
-Taxed school employees' retirement, increased contribution by 3%;
-Gutted Tenure Act to prohibit only "arbitrary or capricious" dismissals;
-Required that half of teacher evaluation be based on student performance;
-Mandated a 20 percent health insurance premium cost;
-Eliminated the cap on charter schools;
-Ended bargaining for retroactive insurance payments and step increases;
-Increased the teacher probationary period and made it easier to dismiss probationary teachers;
-Outlawed bargaining on teacher assignment, discipline or discharge;
-Ended payroll dues deduction.
Among the 80 introduced bills to further cut bargaining rights are:
-Further increases in employee retirement contributions;
-Allowing parents to take the school's state funding to on-line schools ("cyber charters");
-Mandating schools of choice;
-Right to work;
-Use public school money to pay for private schooling.
The GOP is clearly intent on destroying the cornerstones of the American middle class, and quality public education for all is one of the most important.
It is absolutely imperative that we end this Republican war on public education. Your vote has never been more important!