The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Michigan:
Corporations defeat school funding proposal

Nov 13, 2006

Helped by a big infusion of advertising cash, corporate opponents of Michigan’s Proposal 5 were able to sway voters against it.

Proposal 5, also called the “K-16" proposal, was a proposal to increase school funding immediately across the board and to peg future increases to the inflation rate. In addition, it would equalize public school funding between districts in Michigan.

At first, polls showed broad support for the proposal; after all, it would benefit every child in school.

But then a big opposition campaign started up, funded by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the Michigan Association of Realtors, among other corporate backers. They blitzed the airwaves with many more ads than the supporters could afford, and the ads had their effect.

The first argument they made was a scare campaign asserting that most of the money would go to teachers’ pensions, pulling funds away from the classrooms and the students. It was an out-and-out lie. The proposal in fact would have kept funding in the schools, by requiring that deficiencies in the pension fund be covered from the general fund, not from local school budgets.

That’s what these companies were afraid of: that they might have to pay for some of this. Right now, there are NO corporate income taxes in the state of Michigan. If more money were mandated for the schools, who knows what would happen?

The second thing opponents of the schools said was that funding the proposal would require tax increases, or cuts in other public services like health care, police and fire departments.

Given the way things are organized in this capitalist society, that could be true. The same corporate interests that actively opposed this proposal would make sure that the politicians didn’t come back to them to pay for it, if it were to pass. They’d make sure that the money would come from OTHER programs that help ordinary working people, or raises in OUR taxes – not cuts in their huge tax breaks.

And the politicians proved the point. Most of them were against this proposal, including Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm and her Republican challenger, Dick DeVos. Make the corporations pay for the schools? Not them!

In fact, we can’t win if we depend on putting a spending proposal on the ballot. Those with deep pockets will pull out all the stops to defeat it. But, even if it passes, they control the politicians.

If we want resources to go to help our children, it will take a lot more than a ballot proposal. It will take a fight.