Teachers, unions — July 19, 2011 at 7:00 am

MI GOP continues its war on teachers – Next target: pensions


Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger had a good day yesterday. His effort to stamp down the efforts of 26-year old Autumn Smith to force him to face his constituents in a recall vote got a shot in the arm from a willing judge in Calhoun County. Not only that, he got to enjoy his win on Autumn’s birthday.

A judge has extended an injunction meant to temporarily stop an effort to recall Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall.

Calhoun County Circuit Court Judge Conrad Sindt ruled today that an injunction in effect since June 22 would remain valid at least until an appeal in the recall process is settled.

The ruling means the Calhoun County Election Commission cannot meet to consider petition language submitted by Emmett Township resident Autumn Smith.

As you will recall, Smith has been carrying on with her recall effort, having found that Bolger’s legal team forced the County to delay its decision on her petition language for too long. Michigan election law requires them to make a decision with 20 days or the language is accepted by default.

Nonetheless, the judge did not rule on this so there’s always the chance that the matter will come up again, probably in front of the same judge, and Autumn’s gathered petition signatures will be deemed ineligible. The delay tactics, intent on wearing Smith down until she quits, seem to be having their desired effect. Last night on her Recall Bolger Facebook page, Smith wondered aloud, “To quit the recall or not to quit…that is the question…” Hard to blame her, really. She’s been collecting about 100 signatures a week and needs over 8,000. At that rate, it will be fall of 2012 before she has enough unless she gets some help. On top of that, she’s facing an opponent seemingly willing to spend an unlimited amount of money to avoid facing his constituents

You can donate to Autumn Smith’s Act Blue page HERE.

But that’s not all that has Jase Bolger in the news in the past few days. Last Thursday, we learned that his next legislative target is teachers’ pensions.

That’s right: pensions. It’s not enough that school funding has been drastically cut back, forcing school districts into difficult financial straits. It’s not enough that they have made it “more illegal” for teachers to strike. It’s not enough that the new Emergency Manager law is being used as a cudgel to force even more wage concessions. It’s not enough that their ability to collectively bargain has been severely curtailed. It’s not enough that they will now pay more for their health insurance after giving up wages to secure what they have. No, none of this is enough. Now their pensions, the money they will live on in their retirement, are in the bullseye.

Whether Michigan school districts will see more funding next year will depend on the state’s economy, but lawmakers are working on pension reforms to free up money for Michigan K-12 classrooms, state House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, said Wednesday.


“Our goal is to make schools better” by giving school officials “the tools they need” to better contain costs and improve teacher quality, Bolger said Wednesday during an hourlong discussion with the Kalamazoo Gazette in his office at the state Capitol.

“The whole point was to face reality,” he said of the Republicans’ 2011 agenda this spring on education. “I don’t think the past 10 years were helpful, where schools got marginal increases in funding, and there was not an attempt to contain costs.”

In any rational society, teachers are not considered “costs”. They are considered assets. Something to be valued. Something to be rewarded. The Republicans have done an amazingly effective job of turning the public’s perception from seeing teachers as a valuable asset to seeing them as parasitic leeches on the jugular vein of society. Rather than valuing them for the important role they play in our society — that of educating our children — they are now coming to be viewed as a “cost”, something to be cut when times get hard.

We have cut their pay, increase the amount they pay for healthcare, reduce their retirement benefits and make it nearly impossible to bargain on their own behalf. And yet we expect them to effectively educate our children. We do this to help pay for massive tax cuts for businesses. And then we expect them to come to work each day, stand in front of the next generation of leaders and scientists and parents and doctors and trash collectors and make them ready to take their place in society.

Meanwhile, we scream collectively that our schools are failing our children.

I’m not sure how doing all of the things we are doing to our teachers constitutes “making our schools better”, to quote Speaker Bolger. What I do know is that a society that devalues its educators is destined to slowly circle the drain until it glugs down into an empty, fetid tub of ignorance and stupidity. It’s not possible for a society to excel or to compete on the world stage when its children are educated by people who are treated as if they are parasites.

Last week my wife and I watched “The King’s Speech”. The lesson we both took away from it was that a single teacher can change the course of the world. Every one of us can look back and remember at least one teacher that made a difference in our lives. What I fear, and we should all fear, is that teachers will quit trying to make a difference. That we will convince them that they are without value and without worth. That the drumbeat of “Leech! Freeloader! Cost! Parasite!” will finally bring them to believe it themselves and to finally give up on caring.

We are at a turning point in our society with regard to the education of our children. What is happening in Michigan and in Wisconsin to our teachers is going to be our nation’s future unless we act soon. We cannot continue to cast teachers as a “cost” to be cut whenever possible. We must turn around our country’s way of thinking about our educators and their value to society. Because, if we don’t, we will become a nation of uneducated fools. When that happens, our destiny will be controlled by the countries that DO value education, not by us.