Blog Posts For The Week Of October 15, 2014 Through October 21, 2014

It’s Will Carleton’s Birthday, Do Your Cultural Duty
By John Lindstrom

Posted: October, 21 2014 3:05 PM

October 21 is Will Carleton’s birthday. But you knew that. Didn’t you? For now 95 years it has been the law that on October 21 each year the schools are to teach one of Mr. Carleton’s poems to school children, so surely you can quote Michigan’s most famous poet, outside of Philip Levine maybe. (Oh, don’t tell me you don’t know Philip Levine.)

Mr. Carleton was born in Hillsdale County in 1845, attended Hillsdale College, was a newspaper man and attained fame for his poems that dealt with more practical reality than many a line of Victorian era verse.

His most famous poem, “Over the Hill to the Poorhouse,” dealt with an elderly woman forced to live off charity because her family refused to help her.

But he went on to write many volumes of poems, so your teachers surely had you learning a new one each year. He retained some popularity long after he died in 1912. Johnny Cash, a poet himself after all, admired his work.

And with the question of income inequity now again a popular political argument nationally, to do its part for this important cultural day, we present the final stanza of Mr. Carleton’s poem, “A Million Millions.”

Just think! A million millions!-

The care of all those millions!

And after all, what would befall

A life with all those millions?

Would not the lucre clog my brain,

And make me hard and cold and vain?

Might not treasure win my heart,

And make me loath with it to part?

How could I tell, by mortal sign

Betwixt my money’s friends and mine?

And then, the greed, and strife, and curse,

The world brings round a princely purse.

Perhaps my soul,

Upon the whole,

Is best without the millions!

Justifiable Outrage Over A Facebook Post
By Zachary Gorchow

Posted: October, 17 2014 1:50 PM

We have apparently reached the point in politics where someone cannot post a photo on Facebook congratulating her parents on their wedding anniversary without one of her political foes seeing it as license to launch an attack.

Jennifer Gratz, the woman largely responsible for ending the use of race and gender in university admissions in Michigan, posted a photo of her parents with herself and other family members to congratulate her parents on their 45th wedding anniversary. There was nothing political about it, just the kind of nice family photo that is typical Facebook currency.

But Joan Fabiano, a well-known tea party activist from Ingham County, was still seething about Ms. Gratz’s decision to support a U.S. District judge’s ruling in Detroit overturning Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage (editor's note, this post corrected on Ms. Fabiano's county of residence). So she took the liberty to comment on the post.

“Unfollowing Jennifer Gratz after she joined 24 other ‘Republicans’ in a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman’s decision to strike down Michigan’s ban (Michigan's CONSTITUTION) on same-sex marriage should be upheld,” Ms. Fabiano wrote.

She then quoted what she said was a comment on Ms. Gratz’s Facebook page from when Ms. Gratz decided to support Mr. Friedman’s decision.

“Unbelievable,” Ms. Fabiano quoted that person as having written. “To fight special preferences based on race and support special preferences based upon sexual conduct is indeed the height of hypocrisy.”

“Indeed!” Ms. Fabiano closed.

The reaction was immediate. David Forsmark, who has worked with tea party Republican candidates, said it was “Seriously inappropriate.”

Ms. Fabiano was undeterred in her response.

“Your (sic) right. Sorry to offend. However, undermining our Constitution and then going about your business is more than ‘seriously inappropriate,’ its (sic) dangerous,” she responded.

Some of Ms. Gratz’s relatives chimed in, expressing befuddlement at how the post had turned political. Many others just posted congratulations to Ms. Gratz’s parents.

Then Ms. Gratz ripped Ms. Fabiano.

“It is truly in poor taste and, frankly, lacking political savvy to use a post in which I congratulate my parents for a happy 45 years of marriage to push a political agenda,” she wrote. “I believe and I've said many times that good people can disagree, but those who know no boundaries within political disagreements are pushing the level of discourse in this country in the wrong direction. I'm leaving the post by Joan on this thread because I believe it says more about her than anyone else. Thanks to the rest of you for acknowledging and congratulating my parents.”

Ms. Gratz also could have quoted Joseph Welch, the attorney who effectively ended the rabid anti-Communist Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s relevancy by interrupting one of his outlandish accusations with one of the most memorable lines in American history.

“Have you no sense of decency?"

A Tidbit On The History Of Proposal A
By John Lindstrom

Posted: October, 16 2014 3:25 PM

When the history of Michigan’s, well, history-making Proposal A education funding proposal is finally written, it would be well to search out a long-forgotten document as a key to its overall formula.

So says, Doug Roberts, former Michigan treasurer, who was himself as critical as anyone to developing the 1994 proposal. Mr. Roberts spoke Wednesday at the Capital Issues Forum, a monthly gathering who early in the mornings over coffee and bagels hears presentations on different issues.

Mr. Roberts discussed some broad and basic issues about Michigan’s economic background. But he also talked about the many issues he had played a hand in, and of those many were the ongoing struggles to come up with property tax and education reform.

The final result came eventually in Proposal A. But while people generally focus on the tax and school funding elements of the proposal, Proposal A was a profound restructuring of Michigan education.

And much of the genesis for some of those changes came seven years earlier out of a commission headed by Edgar Harden and Phil Runkel. Both men were themselves legends in Michigan education fields. Mr. Harden had been president of both Northern Michigan University and Michigan State University. Mr. Runkel was still, at that time, Michigan’s superintendent of public instruction, and would be one of the best-known advocates of public education in the state.

In 1987, they headed a commission to look at major changes in state education funding and structure. Mr. Roberts was at the time a deputy state school superintendent, and worked on the commission.

When the commission’s work was completed, it was basically ignored, lost to other issues. But Mr. Roberts held onto the commission’s product.

When in 1993 the Legislature ended all property taxes for education, then-Governor John Engler, shortly after the bill was signed in August of that year, came to Mr. Roberts and asked him to come up with a proposal – which would be the essential guts of Proposal A – in 60 days so he could make his proposal to the Legislature. At first, Mr. Roberts said that would be impossible, but that was the timeframe.

So he pulled out the now dormant Harden-Runkel Commission Report and used it as a basis for many of the ideas in Proposal A.

One of the major ideas was how to tackle the expanding gap between wealthy school districts and poorer ones. The Harden-Runkel commission had proposed that increases to districts be based on equal dollar increases not equal percentage increases.

For example, each district might see an increase of $100 in a student’s foundation grant instead of a 1 percent increase. On a percentage basis an equal dollar increase would mean more to the poorer district than to a rich district. There would still be a gap, but poorer districts would begin to see the disparity close to some extent.

That provision was made a part of Proposal A’s structure, and was one of the more important points to promote greater school equity, he said.

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