Nicely Played, MEA!

"Race to the Top" is starting to look like a fiasco

Seriously, maybe we should just turn the state over to the Michigan Education Association, given that they are so much more brilliant than our elected officials in Lansing. Consider the following two stories, both connected to the Race to the Top legislation that is starting to look like something of a fiasco for everyone who isn’t an MEA lobbyist.

1. Michigan was not among the initial round of federal Race to the Top grant winners. While it would be simplistic to say that the state’s failure was entirely due to the refusal of MEA locals to sign on to local memoranda of understanding, it has to be said that one of the criteria for Race to the Top grants was the extent of buy-in for school reforms, such as evaluating teachers based on student performance. The MEA’s rejection of reforms sure didn’t help.

2. In Kent County, a proposed standard contract, meant to cover several area school districts, apparently includes a bar on privatization of support services. Until the Race to the Top package was enacted, state law was fairly clear that school districts had the authority to have non-instructional services, like transportation, food and maintenance, provided by private companies. Teacher unions like MEA had no say in the matter. But one bill in the Race to the Top package revised the privatization law, making the statute less clear, and now MEA bargainers are making the most of the opening. The contract, and the ban on privatization, only last for one year, but removing the ban from future contracts is likely to be very difficult. The best hope for taxpayers is that the courts interpret the statute in such a way that it still invalidates this section of the contract.

For those of you keeping score, the MEA gave up nothing in the "Race to the Top" deal. They made no concessions in terms of teacher compensation or performance. They may — depending on just how the law is interpreted — have made privatization, which has saved school districts and taxpayers across the state millions of dollars, a subject of collective bargaining again. Oh, and the state hasn’t gotten a nickel in RTTT funds so far.

Sometimes you cannot help but admire such manipulative genius. Let’s face it, we’ve been had; the only thing we can do is tip our cap to them and their sterling execution of a brilliant political scheme. Nicely played, MEA!