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The League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties and American Electric Power (AEP) sponsored a presentation on alternative energy sources on Wednesday, May 8.
The Herald Palladium covered the event and followed up with a comprehensive front page article on Saturday, May 11. Read the article.
To follow up on the June health care meeting, the group decided to read books on health care. There are three choices:
Catastrophic Health Care: How American Health Care Killed My Father and How We Can Fix It by David Goldhill. 2013.
County: Life, Death and Politics at Chicago's Public Hospital by David Ansell M.D. 2011
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot 2011
All three books are available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble and in electronic editions.
The meeting will be held on Monday, July 8 at 10:00 at a member home in Three Oaks.
The Governor also held an Education Summit in Lansing on Monday, April 22. The primary thrust of the summit was matching training and kids with jobs that are going unfilled. The intent is to increase vocational education and modify academic standards.
Then the Education Trust-Midwest released a report called Invest in What Works: An Education Road Map for Michigan Leaders. It documents how education in Michigan has declined and lays out a road map to make Michigan schools more competitive again. Increased funding is key--money spent per pupil in Michigan has been declining for several years. No "value schools" for this group. The report is very readable, but if you would like a summary read Stephen Henderson's article in the Detroit Free Press.
It is a radical plan, changing both the way children are taught and how education is financed. There are a lot of neat buzzwords in the plan that help describe it, albeit favorably. It would be an "Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace" education system. The current "bundled" plan, whereby all services to students are bundled in one school district, would be "unbundled". It would be a "performance-based funding plan" as opposed to the current "seat count" funding. And "online learning" would change everything, from the role of teachers to where and how children learn.
The writing of the plan was outsourced to a group called the Oxford Foundation, with principal author Richard McLellan, a prominent conservative attorney and education "reform" advocate. The first version was issued on November 19, 2012 in time for the lame duck session, but it went nowhere. A revised version was promised and most recently was to have been issued March 25, 2013. However, McLellan says it is not done yet. See the Oxford website--and the pressure is off because Snyder had to submit a school funding proposal in February for FY 14 and the new plan was a long way from ready, nor was the public ready for it.
The Michigan League for Public Policy has a very good synopsis of Governor Snyder's FY 14 school funding proposal and is recommended reading.
One component of the Governor's plan that was introduced in the Lame Duck session (and one of the few bills not to pass) and reintroduced in the new legislature (HB 4369) is the expansion of the Educational Achievement Authority ("EAA"). Currently, and only since September 2012, the EAA administers 15 of the lowest achieving schools in the Detroit School District. It is a separate entity with its own "chancellor" and is not answerable to any local authority. The bills in the legislature would expand the EAA to allow it to take over the lowest 5% of schools all over the state, to a maximum of 50, creating a huge super-district. On March 21 the House passed HB 4369 and sent it to the Senate. The League of Women Voters opposes this bill.
View the podcast on the EAA by Dr. Vickie Markavitch, Superintendent of the Oakland MI Schools. Click Here.
It is not uncommon for outsiders, and even some members, to question how the League can be nonpartisan yet advocate on positions that, in the slice of time that is now, appear to be partisan. In the highly partisan climate that has developed in recent years, the League is one of the very few political organizations that is not in either the liberal/Democratic camp or the conservative/Republican camp. And we have members of all political persuasions and encourage them to get involved in politics. So members may be partisan but the organization is not. All this is hard for many to wrap their minds around.
The League is nonpartisan in that we do not endorse or support any political party or candidate for office. We don't rate legislators, we don't track their votes and we don't threaten them if they don't vote our way. Voter service is one of our main missions and we publish nonpartisan voter guides and hold candidate forums to help voters educate themselves beyond TV ads. Education is an important League function, and we try in our meetings and in this newsletter to inform our attendees/readers and stimulate them to think about issues in our world.
However, the League is also an advocacy group, and we have positions on issues that have been developed over the years since our founding in 1920 and are the result of study and consensus of the local Leagues nationwide. These positions are updated from time to time, but are basically consistent. The positions and platforms of the political parties, on the other hand, do change and at times they resemble our League positions, or not. But the League doesn't change or drop it's positions because they are currently those of one party or the other. And we do speak out!
An example is health care. The League has a position on comprehensive health care for all Americans. President Truman liked that idea too and President Eisenhower delivered a special message to Congress on January 31, 1955 recommending a comprehensive health program for Americans. Read it here. Lyndon Johnson got Medicare passed and that took the pressure off for awhile. But President Nixon encouraged HMOs as a way to rein in costs and provide health care for more people. Then President Reagan came along and decided the free market was the best way to manage health care and the Republicans have basically supported this idea since. But clearly both parties have been on both sides of the issue.
The key is not to confuse politics with position advocacy.