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.
Monday, March 8, 2010
Searching For A Scapegoat
The Michigan Education Association is taking some hits for allegedly derailing the state's effort to secure $400 million in badly needed extra cash for the state's battered school system. It didn't take long for the boo-birds to go after the MEA when it was revealed last week that Michigan did not make the cut for the Race to the Top bonanza being doled out by the Obama folks. It is true that MEA balked at many of the so-called reforms. It wanted to see everything in writing but got a 12-page summary instead. It is true that that the Obama folks were looking for states where all the special interests were on the same page and obviously Michigan did not fit that criterion. So conservative columnist are lashing out at the union and even the governor sort of hinted the other day that the MEA may have been part of the problem. "I worry about that. I don't know for sure," was her tepid response. And to make matters worse the Lansing State Journal popped a story the other day by pointing out that while rank and file teachers around the state were taking pay hits or measly pay increases that barely reached a half a percent, the leadership at the giant teacher's union was hauling down annual raises between seven and nine percent. In fact since 2005 those increases approached 19%. In other words it has not been a good week for the union. The spokesperson for the MEA defended the staff increases under the rubric that to keep good talent, you have to pay good wages. But it rings hallow because the teachers in the trenches could make the same argument and probably with more veracity since they actually teach children, while the leadership at the union oversees the teachers who do the teaching. Beating up on the MEA is a popular in-door sport in this town. It was former Gov. John Engler who made it fashionable and others have picked up where he left off. The union will get another chance to flex its muscles when lawmakers and the governor take another shot at round two of RTTT money. Rep. Tim Melton who runs the House Education committee says he wants to review the federal critique of the state's plan, to see if improvements can be made. "We'll have to see if we have the political will to make the changes," he warns.