Saturday, May 11, 2013

Won't You Do It for the Children, Mr. Snyder?

Courtesy Karen Apricot

The 420 or so students in Buena Vista Township, Michigan, about 20 minutes south of Bay City, have been forced to stay home from school for more than a week.

Why? Because Republican Michigan Governor Rick Snyder doesn’t really care about them.

See, the Buena Vista Township school district laid off all but three employees on May 6 because the district can’t make its May 24 payroll. No teachers equals no classes, so students are watching television, playing Xbox and whatever else kids do when they’re relieved of the obligation to pursue academic goals.

State Representative Stacy Erwin Oakes (D-Saginaw), Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) and Congressman Dan Kildee (D-Flint Township) are among those asking Snyder to tap into Michigan’s Rainy Day Fund (known officially as the Budget Stabilization Fund) to help get these kids back in school. But Snyder’s insisting that’s not what the fund is for and said the state superintendent is working to address the concerns of students and parents in the area, whatever that means.

Whitmer – who pointed out that state budgets signed by Snyder over the past several years have raided more than $2 billion from the School Aid Fund to instead pay for corporate tax handouts – said, “This administration has consistently prioritized corporate profits over the needs of our schools, but it's time for Governor Snyder to start caring more about Michigan's kids than he does about his Wall Street friends.”

I’m sure Snyder’s refusal to tap into the Rainy Day Fund has nothing to do with the fact that the majority of the community’s population is African-American, or that 20 percent of Buena Vista’s population falls below the poverty line. (For a family of three, that’s just $19,530.) But since the fund is “designed to help the state weather challenging economic periods or unforeseen emergencies,” according to the state’s website, and there’s plenty of cash in it (it stood at around $364.9 million at the end of fiscal year 2012), I don’t really know why he’s stalling.

Get this: although local officials are probably most at fault for the crisis - I haven't reviewed their books or even stepped foot in Buena Vista Township - things were exacerbated by the state Department of Education, which is withholding state aid payments for at least April, May and June because the district spent state money it wasn’t supposed to on educating students from a local residential treatment program for delinquent males.

Who thinks punishing innocent children for the mistakes of adults is sound policy?

The district just approved a new deficit elimination plan – an earlier one was rejected by the state – and officials have formally asked the state to conduct a financial review “to determine the existence of financial stress." Residents are calling for the heads of the Buena Vista School District superintendent and Board of Education president. Regardless of who’s responsible for the fact that the kids of Buena Vista Township are posting in Instagram and painting their fingernails instead of reading, writing and doing arithmetic, emergencies like this require decisive action by the state’s chief executive, not buck-passing and thumb-twiddling.

Snyder – a former high-tech venture capitalist and head of Gateway Computers – carried Saginaw County, in which Buena Vista Township is located, by over 8,900 votes over the Democrat, Virg Bernero, in 2010. (Interestingly, Buena Vista Township’s total population is fewer than 8,700 people.) For someone who claimed during that campaign to be “One Tough Nerd,” he sure seems to be lacking leadership skills – or maybe he just doesn’t care that much about people who don’t live in gated communities with guard houses and swimming pools.

To access’s coverage of the Buena Vista situation, click here.

Sources:, U.S. Department of Health and Social Services, Michigan Department of State,

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