During the debate on HB 4813, a measure to provide for the dissolving of the Buena Vista and Inkster school districts, Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons uttered the famous words, heard round the state.
“Pigs get fat, and hogs get slaughtered. I am done now talking about political parties and adult interests. I want to focus on the problem that these adults created.”
Not surprisingly, many took the words as referring to teachers. The representative has been on the defensive ever since. In today’s Grand Rapids Press she tries to explain herself. It wasn’t teachers she was referring to , but
“special interest union leaders who were playing political games with amendments and the bills.”
This packs an unusual amount of irony, given the legislative history of the measure. In her column Lyons summarizes the bill
After much negotiation, Democrat and Republican lawmakers agreed to an amendment in the bill that would have provided for displaced teachers from the dissolved districts to be the first hired in the receiving districts.
Exactly. The only difficulty was that wasn’t the bill that came before the chamber. The substitute measure (H-4) stripped those very protections from the bill. The “special interests” standing in the way of children? That was the proposed amendments from the Democrats, seeking to restore the teacher protection.
The legislative history is abundantly clear on this, it wasn’t the unions or Democrats who brought forward the measure, but the Republican caucus. Trying to blame it on the unions then, is misplaced, and instead only shows the pique of the GOP leadership. The tragedy here s that a real bipartisan bill had been crafted, but the animus of some to teachers apparently was such that “just to show them” they made the bill more onerous and destroyed the bipartisan cooperation.
Oh, there certainly were political pigs in the room.
Likewise, Rep. Lyons displays a remarkable lack of understanding about the structural problems that have been driving Michigan schools into crisis. It’s all the fault of the school districts:
Funding isn’t the problem; mismanagement and administrative negligence led to this crisis.
That might be true were it not for the fact that over the Recession most school districts (GRPS being one of the few exceptions) actually had their fiscal problems worsen. The challenges schools face are structural. Schools have seen a decrease in enrollment from the Recession coupled with the rising role of schools of choice (Bridge reports Pontiac lost roughly $14 million because of transfers). Add to this the Legislature’s shifting of money away from the schools that only compounded the economic impact of the loss from enrollment. This was the storm that has hit not only Buena Vista and Inkster, but Muskegon Heights and others.
The fact is, if we really believe that opportunity should not be restricted to Zip Codes (oh, like 49331), then we had better be passing appropriations and legislation that actually back that up. And if that won’t work, how about this: quit blaming the unions for the failure of your own party. Deal?