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In and outs of the political campaigns, focusing on Michigan and Lansing, Tim Skubick will report regularly throughout the primary and then general election campaigns.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A history lesson for Rep. Melton

Years ago when lawmakers actually had what they called "experience," a special interest group would never lecture a veteran lawmaker. It just wasn't done.
     Ah, but put a lawmaker with three years under his belt in the room with seasoned labor leaders, and lecturing is not so far-fetched — especially if that legislator is embarking on something labor does not like.
    Say hello to Oakland County Rep. Tim Melton (D-Pontiac), who was on the receiving end of just such a history lesson.
    Seems Mr. Melton is on a mission to save failing schools…a truly commendable assignment but not if it steps on labor's toes, which is why Melton was compared to Debbie Stabenow.
    Years ago, when U.S. Senator Stabenow was only a state senator, she offered an amendment to abolish the property tax as the main source of funding state schools.      
    Never in her wildest dreams did she think the Republicans would grab it, run with it, and pass it into law, and take credit for the state's most historic school "reform" affectionately known as Proposal A.
     Hapless Democrats got none of the credit, and, to make matters even worse, Democrat Stabenow's move resulted in four more years of GOP Gov. John Engler and it also meant the end of six and seven percent wage increases for Michigan teachers. Organized labor was not amused.
    Fast forward to the Melton bill. He would create an education czar with the power to abolish labor contracts, fire teachers, and to flush the collective bargaining system into the crapper.  Not sure if this phrase was used, but some labor guy might have said, "You don't want to pull a Stabenow, do you?"
    Melton was told that he would need lots of House GOP votes to pass his bill because many Democrats would not vote yes. And after it passed the House, the Senate Republicans would put their stamp on it, and Melton's mission would be hijacked by the other party.
     Labor thought a repeat of history was not such a hot idea.
     Now we have to see if Mr. Staben---ere…Mr. Melton learned his lesson.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Representative Melton's plan is short sighted for several reasons; 1st, he is proposing to add another state run program at a time when Michigan can't support the programs it already has. Apparently Mr. Melton thinks the current budget deficit and the anticpated deficit for the next fiscal year don't apply here; 2nd, where does he think his "experts" in helping failing schools are going to come from? Has he done any research on the talent pool for the specialists he wants to be in charge of each failing school? I think if he did, he would find the people he envisions doing this job are at best few and far between, and at worst nonexsistent. And don't forget my first point - where will the money come from to pay them??? School districts statewide have serious budget issues and are laying off staff (i.e. Detroit, Pontiac, etc). The schools can't afford it. The state itself doesn't have the money to pay for them. Also, with 49 other states with schools in similar shape, how many of these specialists will be attracted to other states that have the dollars to offer a more competitive wage for their services? 3rd, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) already requires to states to offer supports to failing schools. I'm willing to bet Mr. Melton has not called or emailed the Michigan Dept.of Education or the US Dept. of Education to find out what is already in place, or how his proposed measures fit in with what the Feds already require. Can you say duplication of effort? In the best case scenario, his program would work in concert with what the state and US departments of education are already required to do. It appears that Mr. Melton needs to do his homework better in addition to paying attention to history.

May 21, 2009 at 7:00 AM 

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