Click for audio Roads and Schools: Big Issues of Today and Seventy Years Ago

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Two issues—roads and schools—are big issues today and they were also major concerns 70 years ago. In 1920s, a daring three-term Michigan governor took bold stands on both issues.

Alex Groesbeck was not your typical politician. He would not hand out campaign literature, kiss babies, or even shake hands if he could avoid it. Although he made many people mad, he handled the road and school issues with courage and sensibility.

When interstate road building shifted from private entrepreneurs to the government, many motorists wanted to pass along the cost of roads by taxing everyone. Groesbeck insisted that those who benefited the most from a government service must pay the most. So instead of a general tax increase, roads were funded by a two-cent-per-gallon gas tax.

When extremists, including the Ku Klux Klan, got on the ballot a proposal to outlaw private schools and replace them with a total public school monopoly, Groesbeck campaigned against it. The Ku Klux Klan’s anti-school-choice effort failed overwhelmingly.

Governor Groesbeck championed fair taxation and educational opportunity. He deserves to be remembered today.

For the Mackinac Center, this is Catherine Martin.