Making Detroit the Next New Orleans: Wall to Wall Charter Schools

Not that facts seem to matter these days, but a new study from MSU’s Education Policy Center, Which Districts Get Into Financial Trouble and Why: Michigan’s Story, determined that school districts in Michigan get into financial trouble because of factors they can’t control.  It found that neither privatization nor school spending on retirement had any effect on a school district’s fiscal health:

Whatever the merits of these strategies as emergency measures for [a] district in fiscal distress, our results fail to indicate that they are systematically related to districts’ fiscal health as measured by their fund balances.

What actually matters is race. Districts with mostly black students are in trouble financially, because:

Districts with high concentrations of African American students are much more likely to be subject to intense charter school penetration, to lose students to inter-district choice, and to have higher concentrations of students with disabilities.

This explains the Devos-fueled directive to exempt Detroit charter schools from oversight. Ever-more charters will completely cripple DPS finances, followed by the inevitable solution: a New Orleans-style district-wide conversion to charter schools. All operated by the charter industry.

Expect outrage about this study by the Mackinac Center, even though the authors source the Center’s School Privatization Primer, its most recent Michigan School Privatization Survey, as well as its Employee Salaries and Benefits.  A Collective Bargaining Primer for Michigan School Board Members.

One of the study authors was quoted in a recent issue of the legislative newsletter Gongwer:

Michigan has focused on policies to mostly reprimand school districts in trouble with their fund balances, assuming the problem is attributed to poor decision-making by local leaders,” David Arsen, professor of education policy and one of the authors of the study, said. “In terms of local spending, some decisions matter but overall the impact is small. What does matter are changes in the school district’s per-pupil foundation allowance and their enrollment, especially where school choice and charters are most prevalent.

The study also finds that no matter what the Mackinac Center says, school funding is down:unfund.jpg

Over a span of 11 years, Michigan’s central city districts on average lost a third of their enrollment, producing an average decline of 21.6 percent in total foundation revenue, or a striking 46.5 percent revenue decline in real terms. Suburban districts … also lost funds in real terms, but not as drastically because many also saw some enrollment increases during the period.

This, or course, is the lasting effect of the $1 billion cut in public education Gov. Snyder and the legislature imposed in 2010, which helped to fund a $2 billion reduction in corporate taxes.

On second thought, facts do matter to this Republican legislature. They know full well that charter schools and school choice starves public schools. That’s the whole idea. Programmed failure with a corporate solution at the ready.

Mackinac Center Asks Members to Help End Pensions 

Years into the long-term project to close the state’s pension system, the Mackinac Center has gotten so desperate it is trying to get help from the very people it’s hoping to hurt: MEA members.

A recent mass emailing to MEA members, Center staffer  Jarett Skorup writes an innocuous message sounding like a reporter digging for facts:

Skorup Spam.jpg

He is instead a right wing operative hoping to trick these folks into helping them kill other people’s pensions. Which is not a stretch: the Mackinac Center has year after year made closing the state pension system a priority in order to replace it with a plan where all of the risk falls on the employees. They’re looking for help crafting a message that will result in fewer people paying into the MPSERS pension system. A change that will increase the system’s underfunding.Focus1

The Center has done this before. When their “please quit the union in August” campaign failed to get as many opt outs as they hoped, they tried to organize focus groups of members who stuck with their union to help them frame a better message. And to sweeten the deal, the Center also offered to buy them dinner and give them $50.

“Here’s dinner and 50 bucks to help us make you weaker.”

This time, it’s the same sort of deception:

As background, we’ve been concerned about problems with the state pension system related to underfunding, how long it takes people to be eligible for benefits, and whether legislators will properly fund retirements.

Right. The Mackinac Center thinks it takes too long to be eligible for benefits. And they’re bothered legislators haven’t properly funded retirements.

It’s the usual double-talk half truth you’d expect from a politician. They think you should be immediately eligible for benefits because they want to kill your pension and force you into a 401k plan instead. And they want legislators out of the retirement funding business all together.

This isn’t a reporter collecting facts; its a political operative gathering ammunition.

None of this is an accident. The Mackinac Center spent years undermining the pension system with this result in mind. In 1997, they succeeded in getting the state pension system closed to new enrollees. It was fully funded at the time.

Since then, with fewer and fewretireer paying into it, it has become more and more underfunded. Add to that ever more charter and on-line schools (thanks to Mackinac Center pressure), neither of which pay into MPSERS, and the underfunding grows.

This means that after years of Mackinac-inspired changes to the pensions system, changes that have all served to increase underfunding, the Center is asking members to help craft a message designed to underfund MPSERS even more.

So now, the Mackinac Center solution to this sudden underfunding problem (“I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here”), is to shift all the risk to the employees and close the state pension system.

Which will make our schools more like the private sector. Which has fewer unions. Which is the whole point.