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Full disclosure time. I am a proud teacher and a very proud union member. I realize that that’s a double whammy for a lot of you out there. Teachers have been demonized. Unions have been demonized. Sadly, a lot of folks have bought into that process — probably without thinking much about it. To be sure, public school teachers and union members pose a threat to the political agenda of some very rich and powerful people. As such, my profession is subjected to constant attacks by those for whom a good public education is problematic. With the help of Frank Foster, Greg McMaster, Howard Walker, and other enemies of public education, Gov. Rick Snyder, under the direction of the Mackinac Center, has systematically worked to defund public education and to attack the Michigan Education Association. I see one of the governor’s favorite solutions, the Educational Achievement Authority (EAA), as an unmitigated disaster for our state. Fraud, corruption, and darn little achievement have marked this controversial effort to steal local control of schools from parents and communities.
In spite of its failures, the Republican-controlled legislature is looking to expand the EAA into even more districts. The voice of the people is systematically being silenced, and not in the effort to achieve anything positive for the children of this state. With the muzzling of local voices comes an expansion of private solutions which create tremendous profits for those with access to the Governor. And, like it or not--the First Amendment or not—more and more religion will be forced down our children’s throats as Dick Devos, the Oxford Foundation, and the Mackinac Center redesign “public” education to meet their personal financial and religious goals.
That’s my full disclosure. I am a staunch enemy of the enemies of public education. While there are flaws in what is surely the foundation of our democracy, that flawed system is still our best bet to protect the interests of we, the people.
So when the Mackinac Center began its campaign during the last month to encourage teachers to drop their union membership, I wasn’t surprised. I have talked about the Mackinac Center and I have successfully shown how they are not a legitimate non-partisan think tank. I have debunked all of the Mackinac Center’s claims to being non-partisan. I called them out on having never published an article in a peer-reviewed journal. And their response claimed that all of their work is peer-reviewed. And, like disgraced 1988 presidential candidate Gary Hart, knowing they were lying, they challenged all of us to check them out. I did. And of course, the only reviewing done of Mackinac Center work is by employees or contractors of the Mackinac Center itself. I believe they are intellectual frauds and no one outside of their philosophical circle takes them seriously.
What did surprise me is that the Mackinac Center is using tax subsidies and postage subsidies to finance their attack on public education and teaching. Isn’t this the “free market” champion that rejects “freeloaders” in our system? And yet on a mail piece sent to teachers last month, they asked us to help pay the postage by using a nonprofit mailing permit. The U.S. government allows legitimate nonprofits to mail at cheaper rates to aid in their fundraising and other activities, but this privilege is expressly denied for political causes. Now how the Midland Postmaster allowed this mailing to go out is a question he’ll have to answer, but it sure seems to me like the Mackinac Center is not following either the letter or the spirit of the rules governing nonprofit organizations.
Earlier in the month they used public school emails to send a commercial message to teachers urging them to quit the union. This is the same Mackinac Center that persuaded our GOP-dominated state legislature to ban schools from collecting union dues because it cost those schools money to do the collection. (This, of course, is false, since all payroll is electronic anyway, but Frank Foster and the rest of the GOP caucus aren’t really ones to let the facts get in the way of a good union attack.) Instead, the Mackinac Center used public school employee time by using the Freedom of Information Act to acquire teacher emails.
In what seems to me to be a clear violation of the rules governing IRS code 501(c)3 organizations, the Mackinac Center is actively promoting political positions with our tax dollars. If you’re as fed up with them as I am, I urge you to get on the IRS website and file Form 13909 documenting the Mackinac Center’s violations of their tax-exempt status. Again, I have no problem dealing with the hypocrisy and intellectual fraud propagated by the Mackinac Center. I do have a problem with them using my tax dollars to promote their agenda. And so should you.
Published in the Petoskey News 6/25/14