Once again in the recent school board election, the conservative wing decided to self-destruct. In this case, by making union support the deciding issue.
So late last week came this card:
Two flaws present themselves:
First, there is the delicious faux populism, comparing average salaries: teachers $55,000, and “the average salary for you and me” of $33,000. This latter number is something of a mystery, to wit: per capita (i.e. individual) income in the metro area is roughly $33,000 and $20,800 in the city– but that’s calculated spreading total income over total individuals. A more realistic number is that of Household Income, and here too the numbers are off. Median Grand Rapids income is $43,900. Not to belabor this, but the “average salary” seems to be an entirely fabricated number.
And then, there is the over the top language, “Stop the Union Takeover ….” The issue at hand for the school board is not the question of Reform, or Excellence, but of the dreaded teachers and their union, the conservatives whipping boy/gal de jour. Now in fairness to the mailer, this sort of approach is a motivator for the conservative side of the fence, a fear-mongering, yes, but a motivator all the same.
Still, it is so fundamentally stupid. Stupid, for misreading the situation (none believe that Raynard Ross or Monica Randles are tools of the union — at least none who have met them). But even more so, for how it corrupts the discussion that must take place. Grand Rapids Public Schools is up against financial constraints and the challenge of preparing children in poverty. This will take a coalition drawn from across the community. And one member of that coalition will most definitely be the teachers. Given that, where — why?– does one gain by attacking teachers?
Sadly, the post card is a microcosm of the same political notion at work in our state, notions that imagine that there is something like a free lunch when it comes to education. The attacks on teachers and even the notion of public schools to judge from some both function to degrade the schools we have, and leave our children and our community under-prepared for tomorrow.