The idea of permanently locking in a rate of funding for any government program strikes me as a very bad idea.
The whole purpose of having representative government is to avoid knee-jerk actions like that. However, if the K-16 coalition’s proposal makes it to the ballot, I plan to vote for it. That’s right. Why would I do such a thing? Because responsible representative government in Michigan has broken down.
Someday we may find leaders who have the vision and courage to fix it, but in the meantime, we need to avoid destroying public education in our state.
Nearly every year, the state budget turns up a last-minute deficit, and the politicians find higher education the most tempting target. You can blame the Republican ideologues in the legislature, or the timid Democratic governor, but the real culprit is term limits.
Winston Churchill once said that democracy was the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried. Term limits are worse still. In Michigan, they make sure we never have any statesmen. Most of the legislators aren’t there long enough to even learn enough about their jobs and the complexity of the state’s problems. Besides, they have to worry about their next jobs.
When nobody in the state house of representatives can stay longer than six years, you have no institutional memory.
In the old days, the legislature had a few old bulls who knew that what goes around comes around. They were partisan politicians, sure. But they knew that if even if their party was in power, that wouldn’t always be the case. And when it came to issues like education, they sometimes could be persuaded to put the good of the state first. Today we are in an age of ideology, irresponsibility, and extreme partisanship. Less than two years ago, the lieutenant governor chaired a commission that said we needed to double the number of college graduates in ten years.
We just saddled our high schools with a new set of far tougher graduation standards. Soon after that, a Republican legislator who knows better told me the schools didn’t need money for new teachers. That’s just nuts. Meanwhile, the Democrats seem to be motivated primarily by fear that someone, somewhere, will accuse them of wanting to raise taxes. Which when it comes to education, is exactly what we need to do. Education is our seed corn.
If farmers eat their seed corn during the winter, they have nothing to plant in the spring, and the next year, they starve. If we so cripple our great research universities that they are unable to help create the high-tech jobs of the future, we become Guatemala.
Next time the state budget will has a deficit, the politicians will have a choice of cutting prisons, Medicaid, or higher ed.
Old people vote, nobody wants Ted Bundy turned loose, and most voters haven’t been to college. Guess what will happen.
Passing the initiative would at least protect education, higher ed especially, from further craziness. In principle, I think it is a bad idea. In practice, I will vote for it.