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GUV RACE HEATING: Whitmer, Kildee Eye Challenge to Reluctant Schuette

Will Ideology Trump Democracy, Keep Michigan in Financial Turmoil?

April 2, 2017       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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Sparring already is underway for the big fight for the Michigan governorship up in 2018.

Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette says he is "thinking about it."

So is U.S. Rep. Dale Kildee, a Flint Democrat.

But Gretchen Whitmer, lately interim Ingham County Prosecutor and former Democratic leader in the Michigan Senate, is all in.

Misogynistic comparisons of Whitmer to former Gov. Jennifer Granholm that have surfaced are not only unfair but cruel and ignorant. Some observers are using the fact that Granholm was a woman governor who faced tough times in Lansing and concluding that Whitmer undoubtedly would suffer the same fate.

Does anyone think that because Gov. Rick Snyder is a man and the fact that his record in state leadership has been spotty that Schuette would be of the same mold because he also is a man?

Not anyone who thinks logically.

Schuette was here for a Saginaw Valley Torch Club dinner last spring at the Saginaw Bay Yacht Club and displayed the kind of aplomb that would admirably suit him for the job.

We noted in our report of Schuette's presentation to the Torch members that he was in a bit of a bind over the Flint water crisis. Not as big as Snyder however. Schuette had to decide whether to cut into his GOP base by bringing charges against the governor. Apparently, that ship has sailed and Schuette has chosen the path of political wisdom. Why beat a dead horse? Snyder already has taken enough heat over the regrettable disaster that will haunt Flint children and parents for decades.

The race will turn, it seems to this corner, on the economy and the infrastructure more than who is to blame for the Flint water mess.

Michigan is ranked near the bottom among states on transparency, so we should carefully watch Schuette's stand on that issue. That will tell us a lot about how he would govern, should he choose to run and should he be elected.

Perhaps Michigan's biggest issue is the long-term trend of the state under-funding cities, as described by the Detroit Free Press recently:

"Michigan municipalities owe $9.5 billion in unfunded pension and post-retirement health care costs, according to a 2016 report by Eric Scorsone and other local government finance experts at MSU. For many cities, trying to keep up with these commitments are cutting deeper each year into money that once paid for municipal services such as police and fire protection. As municipal payrolls shrink, more retirees are collecting from the systems while fewer employees are paying in."

School districts have had their income, and ability to deliver appropriate services to Michigan's children, hampered by an unseen drip, drip of funds to fatten the bottom lines of for-profit educational corporations.

No one can say with authority how much the for-profit charter schools and online companies like Pearson and K-12 take out of the state school aid fund. But the fact that an estimated 30,000 students are enrolled in online classes, often with minimal supervision, may give us a hint of the problem.

Business leaders and educators are launching an effort to reexamine how Michigan's schools are funded, saying the current system is "broken" and change is needed to ensure students are "prepared for jobs and success." The School Finance Research Collaborative has announced that it will conduct a school adequacy study that will create a new framework for funding K-12 education in the state.

This is the best news schools have had in years and the results of the study should be eagerly awaited by citizens as well as leaders.

The Collaborative, a bipartisan effort funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, is at work on a new report. The report will build on the findings of the state-funded Michigan Education Finance Study, which was released in June 2016. The state-funded study was not a true "adequacy study," according to Kellogg.

'The Collaborative will also employ proven methodologies to generate a more accurate roadmap for school financing in Michigan," Kellogg states.

"Once accurate and comprehensive data are available, the Collaborative will work to communicate this critical information to Michigan policymakers, stakeholders and the public at large."

The report is expected to be released by December.

Mr. Schuette could make political hay from any school funding scandal that may be uncovered, but it may not be in the Republican playbook to out his compatriots over school money just as it would not add to his popularity by scourging Snyder over the Flint water debacle.

The opportunity that Attorney General Schuette could take, given the power of his office, to further expose the factors siphoning off the state's educational funding -- hurting the future of Michigan's children -- would be perhaps his greatest contribution and would no doubt solidify his gubernatorial credentials.

Chances of real school finance reform being accomplished by the ideologically-oriented and ethically-challenged Legislature are slim and none, most Lansing observers feel.

As we are seeing now as Washington grapples with unprecedented corruption, ideology should never trump (pun intended) democracy.


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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
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