Social justice vs. suburban protectionism

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, appears to have hit upon a proposal that has equal support among voters who identify themselves as either Republican or Democrat in the Wolverine State.

Among several education reform measures Snyder has proposed recently — which include an expansion of charter schools — the governor has put faith into the idea that all public schools should be schools of choice.

While news reports generally have focused on Snyder’s controversial charter school ambitions, several wealthy districts bordering more impoverished urban school systems have lobbied aggressively against Senate Bill 624, which essentially orders schools to open their doors to students from other districts as long as they have seats. Most Michigan school systems already participate in the program, but the holdouts include affluent suburban districts, such as Grosse Pointe and Bloomfield Hills, where school boards and city councils have openly declared that their quality of life and “premium housing stock” will suffer from this urban encroachment.

A new poll shows these attitudes are out of touch with the overwhelming majority of Michigan voters. The Republican polling and political consulting firm Marketing Resource Group surveyed a sample of 600 likely voters in Michigan early in October to determine support for the bill and found that 82 percent of respondents supported this option. And while MRG is a partisan research firm, it broke its results down by party. Republicans and Democrats responded the same way: 83 percent said they supported the measure. A third group, which MRG identified as ticket-splitters, backed the bill with 79 percent saying they supported it. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, and it was commissioned by the Michigan Catholic Conference, which supports Snyder’s school choice initiatives.

Before this is skewered as a favorable poll commissioned by a special-interest group who wanted to promote a favorable poll, the Catholic Conference can at least unequivocally show that the majority of Michigan voters shares its sense of social and economic justice in this matter. Most Michigan voters care more about equal educational opportunity than they do about Grosse Pointe’s premium housing stock.

“Regardless of the respondent’s location, race, gender, union membership or party affiliation, the results of this survey clearly indicate that Michigan families have grown lethargic of the status quo and want the ability to choose where and how their children receive the best education possible,” said Paul A. Long, the president of the Michigan Catholic Conference. “It is the hope of the Michigan Catholic Conference that these polling numbers will help members of the Michigan Legislature look past what is a very small yet vocal minority of special interests and listen to everyday parents and families who want better educational options for their children.”

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BY Adam Emerson

Editor of redefinED, policy and communications guru for Florida education nonprofit

One Comment

I’m glad you included a link back to your prior post regarding this proposed law. That way, readers can see how you neglected to respond to the comments posted there.

Also, this bill has been tabled for almost 90 days. Let’s see what happens when the Education Committee is through with it.

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