For the past four years, Michigan Republicans, taking their cues from the anti-teacher group Mackinac Center, have defunded education, gone after teacher pay and benefits, and done just about everything they could to put public education and public educators out of business. Their model is to make teaching so unattractive that the professionals abandon it as a career, leaving the job to those willing to be paid a pittance. The model also involves putting public schools in austerity mode and then forcing them to “compete” with for-profit charters that have lower costs and can cherry pick their students.
As it turns out, all of this hating on public education and the heroes that work in our public schools is not representative of how Michiganders view public education. A new EPIC-MRA poll spells it out:
- Over half of those polled think our public schools are providing a quality education.
- 45% public school teachers are not paid enough while only 9% think they are paid too much. 17% of Republicans feel teachers are overpaid.
- Over half think schools receive too little funding to provide a quality education.
- Less than a third think taxes for school funding are too high.
- Over three-quarters have a positive opinion about public education teachers and school employees and 58% have a positive opinion about union members in general.
- 43% think teacher benefits are about right, 24% said they receive too little benefits, and only 19% said they get too many benefits.
There is rhetoric and then there is reality. State Policy Network affiliates like the Mackinac Center spend enormous amounts of resources demonizing teachers and union members. It’s what they are paid to do by their corporate funders. They publish endless reports that are little more than propaganda disguised as “news” and then get their message pushed on the op-ed pages of newspapers like The Detroit News. (NOTE: see update below.)
What this report shows is that Michiganders are not swayed by their anti-public education campaign. Most Michiganders know educators and know that they are heroes in our communities, not the greedy villains they are portrayed as. They know the importance of locally-controlled public schools and that these schools are an essential part of any community, something not only to be valued but to be well-funded and promoted.
It’s not going to get better, unfortunately, if our voters continue to elect anti-public education Republicans to our legislature. The job for those of us who understand the value of public education is to never stop pushing back against the attacks by the corporatists eager to get their hands on education tax dollars. They see those precious tax dollars as a giant pool of potential corporate profits rather than resources to improve our schools.
If those that attack our public education system truly valued public education as they claim to, they would recoil at the idea of making a profit off the education of our children. Instead, they salivate.
This poll shows that the anti-public education forces haven’t yet won the battle. But the reality is that there was a 10% spike in the number of Michigan schools in finacial crisis last year. That’s no accident. It’s a reality that shows that they haven’t lost yet, either. Let’s make sure they don’t win.
UPDATE: If you want an example of how corporatist front groups, including those affiliated with the State Policy Network, get their messages out through mainstream media sources, there’s a classic example on MLive.com. An op-ed piece published on December 22nd was written by Maxford Nelsen, a labor policy analyst at the Freedom Foundation, and Michael Saltsman, the research director at the Employment Policies Institute.
The Freedom Foundation is an SPN affiliate with connections to ALEC and Koch brothers-backed Franklin Center. The Employment Policies Institute is another corporatist front group, one of dozens started by the professional shill and corporatist profiteer Richard Berman who has made a lucrative career out of going on the attack to protect corporate interests. I’ve written about Berman before in my piece Corporatist profiteer Richard Berman attacks AFT President Randi Weingarten in Detroit News “Op-Ed”. Their propaganda piece attacks the push to require employers to offer paid sick leave for their employees. Their piece references a recent report by – you guessed it – the SPN affiliate Freedom Foundation.
Obviously that is something corporate America has absolutely no interest in whatsoever.