Unions fight GOP effort to seize power over schools

    As the frenzied-pace Lame Duck session continues, state GOP lawmakers are looking to maximize their power and influence over schools before Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is sworn in. But teacher unions are fighting back.

    In a story this week, Bridge reporter Ron French wrote that a bill now being considered in the Michigan House would create a commission largely appointed by Republicans that would have broad authority over schools.

    Tim Kelly

    House Bill 5526, sponsored by state Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw), would create an A-to-F grading system for public schools. French writes: “In essence, it would serve as a shadow State Board of Education that would not be accountable to the incoming governor, the elected State Board of Education or the state Department of Education.”

    What’s more, outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Snyder is poised to “stack” the commission with his appointees before Whitmer takes office on Jan. 1, according to Bridge. The commission language had flown under the radar.

    American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Michigan and the Michigan Education Association, unions that represent the lion’s share of Michigan public school teachers and other educators, are pushing back. In an email, AFT Michigan asked its members this week to send electronic letters to their lawmakers.

    The message, in part, reads:

    “We need you to be a part of our fight back. In order to stand up for Michigan’s students, educators, and working people, communicating with your legislators about how important our public schools are, and that lame duck is not the time to make major changes to education policy or labor relations.”

    “It’s notable that only one rank-and-file educator would sit on this committee – because these lawmakers have routinely ignored the opinions of front-line experts in our classrooms.” said Doug Pratt, MEA director of public affairs.

    HB 5526 also is opposed by the Michigan Department of Education; the State Board of Education; Michigan Parents for Schools; the Michigan Association of Superintendents & Administrators; Wayne Regional Educational Services Agencies; and Oakland Schools.

    Ken Coleman
    Ken Coleman reports on Southeast Michigan, education, civil rights and voting rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.

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