River City residents have given up on the Grand Rapids Public Schools, if the dismal turnout for the May 2nd school board election is any evidence. With less than 15,000 votes between them, pro-union candidates Monica Randles and Raynard Ross won the two open seats on the Grand Rapids Board of Education. When they join the board in July, board members endorsed by the teachers union will constitute a majority. In addition to Randles and Ross, the pro-union bloc will include current board members Tony Baker, Wendy Falb, Jon O’Connor, and Maureen Quinn Slade.
Mind you, the old crew was hardly anti-union and certainly not pro-taxpayer. At a public meeting last month, the outgoing board reported that they had gotten together with Paul Helder, president of the teachers union, to plot out how to organize a union-cum-social justice coalition and then draft GRPS employees, students, and parents into a campaign to hammer politicians for more tax dollars. More tax dollars for what? To maintain salaries and benefits for Helder’s union members.
So the fox is already in the henhouse.
Let’s be clear about what the voters, by not voting, have permitted in the GRPS: Students will not get more at the expense of teachers getting less. Of course, this is unsustainable. The crunch is already here. The ballyhooed revenue windfall in the state coffers is nothing but the eye of the fiscal storm. The sinecures of unionized teachers will, because of cold reality, give way. But not before the teachers union and their school board allies wage a fierce battle to cut everything else. And the G.R. voters have shrugged their shoulders. They don’t care.
Why not? (1) Let’s not pretend that every parent cares about the education his or her kid gets in the GRPS. Many don’t and of course don’t bother to vote. (2) Many others do care and have taken their kids out of those schools, and so are indifferent as to who sits on the board. (3) Some do fight to get the GRPS to do right by their kids, but are silenced by a board too cowardly to permit open public comment at their meetings. Understandably, they are discouraged by the lousy school board candidates who offer little if any change. (4) Finally, there are the voters who see that the fiscal storm will reckon with the out of control spending on the GRPS with a finality that school boards have failed to do for decades now. A pro-union school board, by resisting the needed reforms in teacher compensation, may well bring about this reckoning sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, the students stuck in the Grand Rapids Public Schools will be an afterthought.