Monday, April 25, 2016

An Unexpected Honor


Without going into specific details, there is a nagging issue that occupies a large space in my mind. This issue through a variety of experiences and observations has been present in my thinking since my childhood and has recently come to the front burner, so to speak, in a way that I could never have imagined. First, let me describe the honor that has been bestowed upon me by a small, elite group of people, the Detroit Public Schools Board of Education, who have been elected by the citizens of Detroit for the purpose of providing all Detroit schoolchildren the free public education mandated by the Michigan Constitution. The ‘honor’ is that I have been selected by the Board to represent the 58,000 children of the school district to restore some semblance of sanity to a system that has been run aground by our Michigan state officials and the recent emergency managers since the state took control of the school district in 1999. In a subsequent blog I will describe what my personal ‘issue’ is as well as the plan to change the downward spiral of the DPS. But first, there is some extremely important background information that must be presented to place the current dilemma in appropriate context.

At the time of the initial takeover, the school district had a $93 million budgetary surplus, a large chunk remaining of a $1.5 billion bond approved by Detroit voters in 1994 for providing necessary repairs, renovations of district schools and new school buildings. There were 178,000 children in the district at that time and the district was acknowledged to be the best-performing school district in the country of districts containing over 100,000 students. To make a long story short, the state now manages a school district of some 58,000 children more or less, that is considered to be the worst in the country where it counts, i.e., education performance, and has a half billion-dollar deficit. The damage done to individual children of the district is the incalculable loss of life opportunities that an adequate education would and should have been provided. The damage done to Detroit schoolchildren is the equivalent of the Flint water crisis on steroids.

Who does the Michigan legislature and governor blame for this fiasco?  The local publically-elected school board, of course. The reality is the school board and local officials bear no responsibility for this current fiasco. Gov. Snyder’s standard response for Republican-created disasters, such as the instant situation and the Flint lead-poisoning crisis, is to lay the blame on someone else, particularly the locals. Politicians find that when they’re sniffing around for votes, it plays very well in the suburbs and western Michigan to blame the current on the fine people of Detroit. It’s all part of the welfare myth that serves as the basic credo of a certain political party. The rubric goes like this; All black and poor people want welfare so they don’t have to work while hard-working others have to pay. In actual fact, the welfare queens of American are big businesses; State and local governments annually award at least $110 billion in taxpayer subsidies to business, with 3 of every 4 dollars going to fewer than 1,000 big corporations, Add the federal contribution and the combined cost of these corporate welfare programs is $1.539 trillion per year. The three main programs needy families depend upon — Temporary Assistance for Needy Families ($17.3 billion), food stamps ($74 billion), and the Earned Income Tax Credit ($67.2 billion) — cost $158.5 billion in total. This means we spend ten times as much on corporate welfare and handouts than we do on welfare for working families struggling to make ends meet.

Stay tuned for the next blog.  Just saying . . .