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Posted on Sun, Jun 26, 2011 : 8:46 a.m.

Republicans are gutting our public schools to create a for-profit system to enrich their cronies

By Letters to the Editor

Good job, Tom Watkins, of evading the issue (guest column, June 12, “Michigan can't wait for Superman when it comes to educational reform”).

Those who can't teach, make policy about teaching. Funny how Rick Snyder's family does not use the public school system he wants to gut, but rather a private school (Greenhills), which has declared its costs to be $20,000 per pupil, more than double what is spent on public school students.

But let's be clear about something. There are three kinds of schools: public, private, and for-profit. When the Republicans privatize education, they will NOT be turning public schools into the kinds of fancy non-for-profit prep schools to which they send their children. They will turn them into for-profit charter schools, the K-12 equivalent of University of Phoenix, the kind of education they would never accept for their own children.

Putting the discussion in college-level terms more familiar to those of us who have been spared the misery of charter schools: the Greenhills school would be the equivalent of Swarthmore and public schools are sometimes as good as U-M. There is probably no college or university in the country that can match the for-profits in dropout rates, grade inflation, failure to provide remedial or advanced programs, alumni unemployment and general disregard for learning than for-profit colleges; why does anyone think that the situation would be different among for-profit K-12 schools?

This Superman business a bunch of corporate Newspeak to cover up the real statement that they are making: "Let's take taxpayer money and give it to our cronies to make a profit, rather than to poor kids who have no influence."

Kudos on your obfuscation of the real issues, Mr. Watkins! Let's ignore the fact that the highest-performing schools on the planet, such as those in Finland and South Korea, are not considering your advice to replace teachers with cheaper, non-union computers. High-performing schools have low-tech classrooms and rely on such inexpensive technologies as chalk and blackboards.

If any of these Superman folks really cared about the children of Michigan, they would not weave these webs of nonsense about new-fangled, high-tech methodology, but look at what is being done elsewhere that is cheaper and more effective.

But if they don't want to think about what is going on in other countries, it might still be worthwhile to look at what is going on in the private, nonprofit schools to which they send their own children. Greenhills boasts a student-teacher ratio of 7:1, prizing itself on "small class sizes, individual attention, and robust athletic and arts programs." These are great ideas, which, apparently, the rich do not want to share with the rest of us.

Sara Feldman
Ann Arbor


Mike K

Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 5:28 p.m.

Gyre: the record will never wear out. You will get the same old talking points over and over again. It's a brute force tactic. Here's something amusing for you. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 4:47 p.m.

Unfortunately Sara is lacking information that 2 of Rick Snyder's children attended Ann Arbor public schools. Yes the third one is attending a private school at the wish of the child, not the parents. They can afford it so drop this as an excuse for cutting school funding. Interesting how Sara also slams the business tax cuts but does not provide any factual information about how this is going to make any &quot;cronie&quot; wealthy. In addition, she doesn't offer any constructive solutions as an alternative. Same old rhetoric. I wilsh this record would wear out.


Tue, Jun 28, 2011 : 3:14 a.m.

Now with the founding of the Tea Party caucus, I can clearly say the Republican party has become the party of both &quot;Wall Street&quot; and &quot;Wackos&quot;. At least the Republican party is transparent about it's priorities and policies. Transfer more money to the rich and keep the rest of America in poverty. No doubt the attack on the public education system and health care is designed to keep Americans poor and subservient to the wealthy. Keep voting for them America and you'll keep getting exactly what you deserve.


Tue, Jun 28, 2011 : 12:04 a.m.

Why does it matter where Gov Snyder sends his kids/ This snark regarding The Governor and where he and his wife send their children to school is no one's business except theirs. Gov Chris Christie was recently asked this same question on TV by a woman named Gale. He handled her quite well and with a heavy hand for asking such an underhanded question. Gov Snyder is responsible for all the children in the state -- and he is doing a GREAT job. He ahs handled the unions, He is managing the budget and he is getting Michigan back to work - all in his first year., Jenny had 8 years and accomplished nothing -- I was 'BLOWN AWAY' by her lack of accomplishments.


Tue, Jun 28, 2011 : 12:30 a.m.

THe Governor..Nerd with tech knowledge is not useing his Nerd .To get kids good plan all classrooms get 20X20 ft. HDTV One program piped IN....test are grated by computermachine like the Voteing machine( save teachers homework and gives teacher more time with children).Okay so we need Apple MR.JOB input or bill gates. seam that One nerd isnot euong!.


Mon, Jun 27, 2011 : 8:28 p.m.

The Repub's want to privatize and transform public education into for-profit? Gee, I thought they only wanted to implant micro-chips in our brains to read our thoughts.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, Jun 27, 2011 : 3:11 p.m.

heardoc wrote: &quot;Wow -- not that this is from a committed leftists or anything.......&quot; Yes. The giveaway to the fact that this is &quot;leftist&quot; is that it uses facts and logic to come to a well supported conclusion. Unlike the blather that comes from the right, esp. in discussions (or in anything that appears on Faux Noise). Good Night and Good Luck

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, Jun 28, 2011 : 12:58 a.m.

&quot;Public school systems are failing across the country. Can you sat DETROIT. We need to revamp and the Chater school system is just the start. Privatizing always works&quot; I see we have now entered a fact-free bloviation zone. Suggest you check on Diane Ravitch and her take on the &quot;success: of charter schools. Of course, being that she was Bush II's Assistant Secretary of Education, she must be a communist. Good Night and Good Luck


Mon, Jun 27, 2011 : 11:56 p.m.

Leftist like Jimmy Carter? Better yet Barry Obama?


Mon, Jun 27, 2011 : 11:47 p.m.

No facts or logic here with Sara Ghost -- Public school systems are failing across the country. Can you sat DETROIT. We need to revamp and the Chater school system is just the start. Privatizing always works -- Big Government always fails. Simple facts but you can only lead a horse to water -- even the elitist horses.....

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, Jun 27, 2011 : 9:40 p.m.

. . . and nothing so entertaining than watching the right wing spew fact-free blather and then claim that others are extremists. Good Night and Good Luck

Macabre Sunset

Mon, Jun 27, 2011 : 7:28 p.m.

Nothing quite so entertaining as an extremist who genuinely believes his way is the only way. Isn't that how the WTC came down?


Mon, Jun 27, 2011 : 4:21 a.m.

Wow -- not that this is from a committed leftists or anything.......

Patti Smith

Sun, Jun 26, 2011 : 11:04 p.m.

They are also creating de facto segregation. I teach special ed in the inner city. By &amp; large, the parents who can transport their children to other schools do so. This leaves the poorest kids in the neighborhood schools &amp; since the neighbors aren't invested in that school, it often falls to pieces. Further, many (yes, I know not &quot;all&quot;) for-profit schools simply don't take special needs kids or kids who hard to educate. This further leads to segregation. And please stop with the &quot;class warfare&quot; nonsense. If you want class warfare, I can give you class warfare...this isn't it. This is about basic fairness &amp; access to education for all.


Mon, Jun 27, 2011 : 11:55 p.m.

You seem to foment class warfare -- public employees and their unions need to be separated. Public schools are 'For Profit' -- only thing that profits are the teachers and their union bosses at the MEA and NEA. They complain for more money for the 'children' then demand that we give them better perks as well as raises while at the same time we are not allowed to hold the teachers to any kind of standard. This thought process that you espouse is slowly but surely changing and capitalism will be the order of the day and not socialism. The mere fact that you attempt to equate change and accountability as well as competition into the education arena with segregation smacks of one who is attempting to promote class warfare. Please stop and you are not the expert in this area.

Macabre Sunset

Mon, Jun 27, 2011 : 7:27 p.m.

Why would you expect those with means to sacrifice their children - their life and blood - to prove to you that they're properly invested in your community? Your idea of basic fairness is rather odd.

Mike K

Mon, Jun 27, 2011 : 12:07 a.m.

Any time one &quot;group&quot; attacks another, it is class warfare. &quot;Tax the rich&quot; is class warfare for example. There are plenty more &quot;generalizations&quot;. What is at issue is &quot;politics&quot; - left ideaslism vs. right idealism.

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Jun 26, 2011 : 5:41 p.m.

Greenhills has an extensive scholarship fund, and the culture there is not the stereotypical &quot;rich kids&quot; culture you find in silly '80s teen movies. Which seems to be the extent of Sara's political depth. I'm very, very tired of class warfare being used in lieu of serious debate of our country's very serious financial crisis.


Tue, Jun 28, 2011 : 12:25 a.m.

serious financial crisis === class warfare = yes ... read the wall street journal

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, Jun 27, 2011 : 7:20 p.m.

&quot;There's a difference between complaining about a parent who chooses a private school for his children and complaining about a group that enriches itself by taking public money.&quot; OK. Now I get it. Certain types of class warfare are OK, especially when they are justified using loaded language like &quot;enrich&quot;. Funny. I know many, many teachers. Not one of them is rich. Not one of them live in the McMansion developments around town. Only the ignorant think teachers, cops, fire personnel, garbage collectors, etc . . are &quot;enriching&quot; themselves. The only question is whether that ignorance is willful or arrived at honestly. Good Night and Good Luck

Macabre Sunset

Mon, Jun 27, 2011 : 7 p.m.

There's a difference between complaining about a parent who chooses a private school for his children and complaining about a group that enriches itself by taking public money. Tuition is around $18k, and 21% of the students are on financial aid, which covers an average of close to 50% of their tuition. It is a private school, which means that parents do have public options. So spending that kind of money when the public schools are available at no cost is a very strong statement against public education. Would we engage in class warfare against someone who placed his child in a special private program for autistic children rather than &quot;mainstreaming&quot; him? Then why would we do the same against someone who wants to place his child in a college preparatory program?

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, Jun 27, 2011 : 2:29 a.m.

&quot;I'm very, very tired of class warfare being used in lieu of serious debate of our country's very serious financial crisis.&quot; I'll remind you of your fatigue the next time you bash unions. Good Night and Good Luck


Mon, Jun 27, 2011 : 2:18 a.m.

I recently talked to a Greenhills parent who said that they seem to offer generous scholarships the first year to rope you in and then drop your aid significantly the following year. Also, many upper middle class families with multiple kids can't afford that kind of tuition year after year. So a lot of the scholarships aren't going to &quot;poor&quot; kids being pulled out of the worst schools as one might envision a scholarship recipient to be. Most of them go to families with significant means by most people's standards.

Patti Smith

Sun, Jun 26, 2011 : 11:01 p.m.

This isn't class warfare. I can give you class warfare if you want it. This isn't it.

Mike K

Sun, Jun 26, 2011 : 8:17 p.m.

&quot;I'm very, very tired of class warfare being used in lieu of serious debate of our country's very serious financial crisis.&quot; Amen. The polarization is incredible.


Sun, Jun 26, 2011 : 7:17 p.m.

Don't hold your breath


Sun, Jun 26, 2011 : 6:27 p.m.

I have wondered about that. Tuition may be $20,000, but that doesn't mean the actual expenditures per student are $20,000 per year, as many private schools do offer generous financial aid.


Sun, Jun 26, 2011 : 4:43 p.m.

&quot;Funny how Rick Snyder's family does not use the public school system he wants to gut, but rather a private school (Greenhills)&quot; ... Given that the MEA has been acting like Snyder is Satan, would YOU want to put your children at the mercy of MEA members if you were him?


Sun, Jun 26, 2011 : 4:14 p.m.

Take a good look at DPS school systems, they've been run underground by the liberal democrats for years and now they want to blame the republicans. The last 10 years were run by a Democratic governor, I guess she had a wonderful spending plan for the public schools systems and Union parties. I wonder if her failed leadership had anything to do with the mess right now, according to the left it has been all republicans fault for the bind we face. Good grief!


Sun, Jun 26, 2011 : 3:39 p.m.

It's none of Sara Feldman's business what school the governor or any other Michigan parent chooses to send their children to or why. Feldman can vote for or against Governor Snyder as she sees fit but she doesn't get a vote on where he sends his children to school. Gratuitous snark about parenting choices does not change the fact that the state of Michigan is broke and so the budgets are being cut although it is good for laughs, giggles and smirks from the usual suspects in these matters.


Sun, Jun 26, 2011 : 2:56 p.m.

Really getting tired of the cry &quot;Its for the Kiddies&quot; whenever getting the schools to live within a budget is discussed. Somehow it seems it is much more about the pay for the teachers and their union anymore in reality. Talk is cheap and they are certainly full of it.


Mon, Jun 27, 2011 : 10:24 a.m.

Except that teachers have been taking pay cuts and freezes for years while paying more for benefits.


Sun, Jun 26, 2011 : 2:42 p.m.

Nicely stated Sara. Mr. Snyder is a hypocrite when it comes to education. If he was a proponent of education then he would be increasing the funding to the level he wants for his own child's school. His draconian cuts to education are also going to force districts to lay-off thousands of teachers statewide creating more jobless citizens. I guess his jobs creation policy is as feeble as his education policy.


Mon, Jun 27, 2011 : 1:03 p.m.

DonBee: You seem to forget that Greenhills doesn't have to spend anything to support all the special needs kids, which is a backbreaker for any budget. They don't have to meet MEAP standards, so they're free to teach content and work on thought process instead of having to teach to a test. Now, if private schools had to accept a percentage of the emotionally &amp; physically impaired students that are serviced by the public school system, you might see a totally different skew on the cost of education. If their students were required to take the MEAP exams, they might not get the same quality educational experience they currently receive. Greenhills teachers don't get paid as much as their public school counterparts, but they only service 30 to 40 students a day instead of 120. You're not comparing apples to apples.


Mon, Jun 27, 2011 : 12:50 a.m.

AAPS spends over $15,000 a year per student (totaling all sources) that is not far from the $16,000 that Greenhills spends.


Sun, Jun 26, 2011 : 2:25 p.m.

All is that I can say is the reason that I sent my son to private schools is that they have become too liberal.Example when My son Was at West Middle his teacher sent him to the principal for drawing a picture of a shotgun.The picture was just the gun nothing threatening more of what you would see as an advertisement ( I had just gotten him a gun for skeet shooting ).The other reason is that schools can no longer discipline kids the get to do what ever the hell they want.Example last year ( ? ) there was a big uproar about a 17yr old kid ( not a child ) got tazed when he attacked a teacher.I just don't see the main problem being the teachers.Schools nowadays are just a place that many parents dump their kids off.No discipline at home and the schools can't do anything about it while they are in class.I'm sure I'll upset some Ann Arborites but that's just the way I see it. I'm sure you can tell I went to public school just because of my poor writing skills ( if it weren't for those red scwiggly lines this would have been a total mess )


Sun, Jun 26, 2011 : 2:50 p.m.

Chip see I spelled squiggly wrong

Chip Reed

Sun, Jun 26, 2011 : 2:43 p.m.

you are correct when you say it starts at home... your bit about the squiggly lines made me smile.

Jacob Bodnar

Sun, Jun 26, 2011 : 2:14 p.m.

I think you may want to go back to school and brush up on your reading comprehension. Watkins' article was hardly saying that we should convert every school to the format of the WAY Program, in which students get an iMac and learn at home online. Rather his point was that the program should not be limited in the number of students and the scope it can reach. It's a valuable program for those who learn differently. One of the major problems with the educational system is that it assumes everyone learns the same, and treats them as such. However, that's simply not the case and we need to reform it to reflect that fact. Also, your hyperbole in this article is unfounded and quite frankly detrimental to the overall discussion. I know of not a single republican or conservative that wishes to transform educational systems into for-profit entities. If you could actually provide any proof that republicans are striving for that, then your argument may actually hold water. Until then you really have no coherent point in this opinion piece.


Sun, Jun 26, 2011 : 5:58 p.m.

This will clarify Sara's point about the profiteering being attempted by the wealthy (Dem and Rep): <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Tom Whitaker

Sun, Jun 26, 2011 : 5:19 p.m.

Jacob: You asked for one example of a Republican that wished to transform &quot;educational systems&quot; into for-profit entities. I provided you with one legislator and one conservative &quot;think tank&quot; in Michigan that are both very aggressively promoting the concept that essential public services like education should be shifted to the private sector. Under President Bush, the Republicans deregulated financial industries, spent hundreds of billions on wars, and cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy. The result is underfunded state and local governments, unprecedented Federal debt, and a global recession, while corporations and the wealthy hold huge stockpiles of cash. How convenient to now blame teachers and other public sector employees, while promoting a privatization agenda to benefit their corporate sponsors. Corporate charter schools have been around for years and I don't think for a moment that the promoters of the &quot;bankrupt and privatize&quot; strategy will be even remotely satisfied with stopping with privatization of educational support services. It's just a way to get a foothold in the schools. Local governments have already been forced to outsource garbage collection, recycling, composting, water treatment and other essential services to private corporations. Will these corporations be obliged to serve the public's interest or the interests of their stockholders? I believe it will be their stockholders.

Jacob Bodnar

Sun, Jun 26, 2011 : 4:38 p.m.

The privatization of support services is hardly changing public schools to for-profit schools. And, uh, good. Support services probably should be privatized, it would save districts money and it wouldn't force them to layoff teachers. I don't necessarily agree with forcing schools to do that. But privatizing those services doesn't change the school from being public, and it certainly doesn't make them a for-profit entity.

Tom Whitaker

Sun, Jun 26, 2011 : 4:10 p.m.

Jacob: Take a look at Michigan House Bill 4306, sponsored by conservative Republican Dave Agema, 74th District, Grandville. <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;objectname=2011-HB-4306</a> The bill, as introduced by Mr. Agema (R), would force public school districts to privatize all support services such as transportation, custodial work, and food service. In fact, as introduced by Rep. Agema (R), the bill would prohibit public schools from hiring any of their own employees to perform these jobs. The bill has since been softened a bit in committee, only forcing districts with a deficit to obtain bids from private contractors for all support services, but it has a ways to go yet in the legislature. Ironically, Mr. Agema doesn't wear his party affiliation on his sleeve. Just try to find the word &quot;Republican&quot; on his own's like a &quot;Where's Waldo&quot; exercise. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> The conservative Mackinac Center has been pushing hard for privatization of public services for years. Just go to their website <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> and type &quot;privatization&quot; in the search bar. Sit down with a cup of coffee, because there is a LOT to read, including this 2004 commentary entitled, &quot; Profit has a Role in the Public Schools.&quot; <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Sun, Jun 26, 2011 : 1:59 p.m.

The majority of people (teachers, parents, students, politicians) have little idea of how to teach really well. Schools are an absolute mess right now and taking away money is making bad into worse.


Mon, Jun 27, 2011 : 10:21 a.m.

What is your backup for your statement that the majority of people, including teachers, don't know how to teach?


Sun, Jun 26, 2011 : 1:40 p.m.

I don't think I agree that it's all some elaborate plan to make their &quot;cronies&quot; a profit, but I do think that they aren't concerned about making schools excellent. Good enough to avoid mass criticism seems to be fine with them. That is why in places like Ann Arbor people are leaving for private schools. The switch started happening as soon as they took away the ability of the community to fund the schools to the level they preferred. Now we have a system of funding that is probably more fair but was at the expense of the excellent districts. In my opinion, that change in how we fund schools is creating a tiered education system defined mostly by family income.

Mike K

Sun, Jun 26, 2011 : 8:09 p.m.

With the diversity of the school age participants, along all parameters, &quot;good enough&quot; might very well be the best you can get??? My kids are in the AAPS, and I'm quite happy at the moment; though, we do put in a lot of time and effort ourselves (as we should).

Mike K

Sun, Jun 26, 2011 : 1:29 p.m.

That's quite the headline!!! Candidly, it detracts from the piece.