Mary Anne Hering, Working Class Party candidate for the Michigan State Board of Education, gave the following speech at the Working Class Party rally held on October 21, 2018.
We say in our campaign literature: who knows better the problems of the schools than those who teach in them, and those who have to struggle to learn in them?
So, with two candidates for State Board of Education with Working Class Party, Logan R. Smith and myself, we could be here all night talking about why the working class needs its own party and what it is that has to change when it comes to education in this class society.
I didn’t have to write this speech. It was handed to me in headlines in daily newspapers and told to us as we have been out campaigning in, primarily, working class communities.
I’ll start with some headlines:
Federal judge rules Detroit public school students do not have the constitutional right to literacy.
Threats from state won’t fix decades of school disinvestment.
Teacher shortages: From the UP to Metro Detroit.
Michigan school funding getting more unequal.
Those headlines reflect the reality that parents, teachers, students, school employees face in Detroit and in a number of working class, and even middle class communities.
Then, listen to just some of the stories we have heard on the campaign trail.
A woman from Livingston County: “My daughter is a teacher, who quit, and waitresses to pay back her student loans.”
Places like Waterford and Birmingham: “No wage increases for teachers in 10 years.”
Another teacher, “I have a master’s degree. 16 years of experience, work two extra jobs and donate blood plasma to pay the bills. I’m a teacher in America.”
Here is an example of the school supplies list parents are given – to be purchased and brought when school starts: 1 pack baby wipes; 1 bottle hand sanitizer; 2 rolls paper towels; 2 boxes tissues; 1 box gallon size zip lock bags; 2 boxes #2 pencils; 1 box crayons, and 10 more things.
Ninety-two percent of teachers pay out-of-pocket for school supplies.
One preschool teacher that I know personally spent $400.
So let me try to take on some of these issues – like the fact that Michigan school funding is becoming more unequal.
First, we live in a class society. What is paid for each child per year by the government reflects your class. The per pupil foundation allowance given by the state to poorer districts is less than to wealthier ones. For example, Detroit gets $7,900 per pupil, Ann Arbor, $9400 and Grosse Pointe, $10,100. And poor rural districts get even less.
Not only is there a higher per pupil grant given to wealthier districts, those districts can spend still more educating each student because they benefit from higher property taxes.
And what are considered the “successful” Michigan school districts? No big surprise that Michigan’s top SAT-scoring high schools are in places that spend more money like Ann Arbor, Northville, and Bloomfield Hills.
Whatever happened to the lottery money?
For every dollar spent on the lottery by Michigan residents, only 29 cents goes to the schools. So there are billboards on I-94 that say in 2017, $900,000 went to the schools from the lottery. But to BE HONEST, there should be a billboard there that admits while some money goes into the schools from the Lottery, money is taken away from the schools. According to the Michigan League for Public Policy, Michigan has shifted a total of 4.5 billion dollars intended for K-12 public schools to universities and community colleges since 2010. This cut was not done for the benefit of the universities and the community colleges, but to make up for part of what the state didn’t give them and to let the state give out tax cuts to businesses.
So this leads me to some of the other headlines I was referring to:
Dan Gilbert wants to use school money to fund his new downtown projects.
Ford seeks $238.6 M in incentives for train station project in Corktown.
Pfizer gets $11.5 M in Michigan incentives for major project near Kalamazoo.
So here are those tax cuts – to Gilbert, to Little Caesar’s Arena, to Pfizer, to Ford Motor Company, to Marathon Oil – to name just a few.
Year after year, governor after governor, state school superintendent after state school superintendent, the state funds study after study to supposedly find out what it is that kids need.
WE KNOW what our kids need. We know that every school should be staffed with credentialed and well-qualified teachers.
Class sizes should be small so teachers can give every student individual attention.
EVERY school should offer a full curriculum, including the sciences, literature, arts, history, foreign languages, not to mention IT programming.
EVERY school should have fully equipped laboratories for all the sciences.
EVERY school should have a nurse and a social worker.
EVERY school should be in tip-top physical condition.
Students should have a program that includes physical education and sports, dance, music, robotics, dramatics, arts, videography, and other opportunities for intellectual and social development.
Well, the working class can’t wait on lawmakers to give these things. They made and will continue to make decisions for the class they serve: the wealthy people who are the bankers, the owners of corporations, the real estate speculators.
Their answer to poor performing schools is to close them. Their answer to problems in the public schools is to steal one billion dollars a year from public funds and give them to private, for-profit charter schools. Their answer to why children of the working class have lower test scores shouts the same anti-working class and racist prejudices and lies of decades if not centuries – as if working class children, black children, are intellectually inferior and that is why they don’t perform well on standardized tests. Their answer is for parents to pay more out-of-pocket for everything ranging from school supplies to sports and cultural events. Their answer is for homeowners to pay more in millages, after they have been taxed every year for more money for the schools because state aid has been cut because the state has given these exorbitant tax breaks to corporations. Their answer is to increase college tuition and indenture young people to exorbitant loan debt until they are middle aged!
We have a different answer! Working Class Party WILL put a price tag on the cost of implementing the changes that are really needed – higher than the highest funding that goes to the wealthiest districts, and then some, should go to our children’s schools. Unlimited resources for our children.
Working Class Party WILL spell out how Michigan can come up with the extra money – take the money the government now spends on those corporations and banks. Take the money the government wastes on wars and prisons, and use it for schools that would give every child a chance to develop fully.
The money is there. The forces of the working class are there. And the working class is going to take the money!