Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder signed an executive order that moved the state’s school reform office from the Department of Education to the Department of Technology, Management and Budget.
That may be one of the most ridiculous statements I have ever written.
But, as a helpful attempt to reinforce its truthfulness, I am going to write it again.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed an executive order that moved the state’s school reform office from the Department of Education to the Department of Technology, Management and Budget.
If you still don’t believe, check this.
There are many things to consider regarding Snyder’s decision. For example, why is a category with the title “school” not placed within a department that includes the label “education”? But that seems silly. (For another solid example that isn’t silly, see this.) I want to explore here the values that such a move represents. And since Governor Snyder has said nothing that I can find, I am going to use an article written by the Detroit News as the text that will provide us some insight into those values.
After a questionable beginning in which the article, “Snyder Right to Move Reform Office,” refers to Snyder’s frustration over “the lack of progress in Detroit schools” without explaining that this “lack of progress” has occurred under a series of Snyder appointed Emergency Managers, the actual situation is explained fairly dispassionately.
“The reform office has oversight of the 5 percent of schools that are the lowest-performing in the state. And it works along with the independently run Education Achievement Authority, the reform district that operates 15 of the worst schools in Detroit.”
These are indisputable factual observations. What it doesn’t also say is that the EAA was created with immense controversy and continues as a colossal failure, a judgement that is reaching consensus in Michigan. It also doesn’t say that the EAA was developed by Snyder, and that the EAA moved schools out of the Detroit Public Schools into the newly created Reform District.
Are you sensing any patterns regarding Snyder’s propensity for movement?
The article continues with less dispassion.
“Snyder has longstanding frustrations with the State Board of Education, the elected panel that oversees the department, and its lack of commitment to reform. The Democrat-majority board is responsible for electing the state superintendent. Superintendent Mike Flanagan is retiring in June, and the board is in the process of finding his replacement.”
The State Board of Education is a democratically elected board that operates independently of Snyder. Its members are each accountable to the public that elected them. Also note the opinion stated as fact, “…its (the board’s) lack of commitment to reform.” I’m not sure where this comes from. I’m not sure what it means. I am sure that the 3 candidates that the board has narrowed their choice to have each shown a strong commitment to public education. I worry greatly that support of public education is misconstrued as support of the “status quo,” and that “status quo” has become code for “the continuation of public education.”
“By issuing the executive order, Snyder is giving a clear warning to the board that if it chooses a superintendent that is resistant to the kind of education reforms the administration seeks, even more control could be taken away from the department….Vickie Markavitch, superintendent of Oakland Schools, is a finalist, and she is definitely on Snyder’s radar as an opponent of school choice.”
Now maybe we are getting closer to some insight. This move is meant as a threat to the elected state school board. It also points out Markavitch specifically as being “…on Snyder’s…radar as an opponent of school choice.” So maybe the unstated assumption is that if you are against school choice you are for the “status quo”? And it seems certain that school choice here is a good thing. And what does school choice mean? I’m not entirely certain, but I assume (in my attempt to make my assumptions clear) that it means more charters, vouchers, cyber schools, private schools, non-union teachers, segregation by class and race and ability, Teach For America and lots of profit. I could be wrong, but I think it’s at least ok to question the assumption that school choice is a good thing. You see, in a democracy we ask questions, and asking questions has been the necessary historical purview of a free press. (Take note Detroit News.)
The article ends with these paragraphs:
“Snyder is already seeking counsel from this broad Detroit coalition forming a blueprint for fixing city schools. The group is expected to have its recommendations ready by the end of this month.
The governor wants community backing for the next round of reforms. But whatever form that plan takes, Snyder’s direct control of the school reform office should help with the execution of the new agenda.
Snyder has contemplated moving the reform office for a while. This was the right time to do it.” (Emphasis added)
So Snyder is seeking counsel from a group, the Detroit coalition, that he put together. All of the available evidence suggests that Snyder is fine in receiving counsel from people who think like him. This thinking is ideological and runs contrary to all readily available contrary evidence. (As an example, see this article from the Detroit New’s conservative editor on how that DPS Emergency Manager thing is working out.) And when Snyder doesn’t like what he hears, he moves things around, literally, so that he no longer has to listen.
And yet, “Snyder wants community backing for the next round of reforms.” He certainly has an interesting strategy for gaining community backing, doesn’t he? Please. He doesn’t care about community backing. If he did, the EAA would no longer exist. If he did, he wouldn’t insist that Emergency Managers take the place of a democratically elected school boards (i.e. “community backed”). If he did, he wouldn’t act as a dictator, he would operate within the constraints of democracy.
What he does want is to institute his ideology with as little resistance as possible. This is certainly much easier when you have “direct control,” which is another way of saying, “Without the obstacle of the complex messiness that democratic processes bring with them.”
Such processes intentionally include a variety of voices and perspectives, and intentionally remove “direct control” from anyone.
Because we used to recognize that the direct control of one leader is the organizing principle of fascism.