Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Time for Bold Leadership. For instance...

It is time for the Republican Party to exhibit bold leadership. From the bottom to the top, we need activists, elected officials and leaders who are ready to pull together and lead this party out of its malaise. Being "against" things is not good enough.. "I'm not a democrat" surely will not do. It is time to be for things that will move Michigan forward. We need to win votes in the urban centers of our state. We simply need to lead on the issues that people in the cities care about.

For example, since Proposal A was passed more than a decade ago, funding for public education has increased at nearly double the rate of inflation. Detroit receives more than $10,000 per student. On top of that, we have "No Child Left Behind", the ill-fated federal program that is now pumping $55 billion per year into public education. And yet, we see virtually no improvement. In fact, in most urban centers we see decline. Detroit only graduates 25% of its students! What bold, positive steps can we take that will earn the respect, support, and votes of Michigan residents?

We can advocate for teacher merit pay. We need to tell hard-working, dedicated public school teachers that they should be rewarded for their efforts rather than carry the weight of others who are not putting in the effort. The weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal published an editorial about Washington, D.C. school Chancellor, Michelle Rhee who is taking on the education union in the District. She is quoted as saying, "Tenure is the holy grail of teacher unions, but it has no educational value for kids; it only benefits unions." Ms. Rhee has proposed reforms that would allow teachers to earn merit increases of nearly 100% in exchange for giving up tenure.

We should commit to expansion of parental choice in public education. Let's give the parents of Detroit and many other areas of the state, who are locked in a failing, bankrupt school system the option of placing their children in public school academies, "charter" schools. These schools are funded by the state, but run by independent chartering agencies. There are many operating in Michigan already, and most have done well. Their achievement scores are above the traditional schools in the same geographical locations. But, the state has placed an artificial "cap" on the number of new charters that may be opened. Detroit is maxed out, even though virtually every charter school in Detroit is full and has a long waiting list.

The parents of this state deserve better, and we have the opportunity to provide it to them, but it will require boldness on the part of legislative leaders. It will take courage to challenge the MEA and the Detroit Federation of Teachers to reform. But for the sake of the students, they should allow merit pay for teachers and the expansion of charter schools. But I believe that if we, as a Republican party take these bold steps, we will see an improvement in public education in Michigan and we will see voters coming back to the Republican party because they realize we have the bold solutions to improve Michigan. If we lead, the voters will join us at the ballot box.

No comments: