Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is a new name in education circles, but not to me. Having lived in the state my whole life, I proudly supported him from the days his popular, ?One Tough Nerd,? ads started popping on TV in early 2010. In the August primaries he pulled a shocking upset and went on to win the general election by a landslide. But since taking office, his efforts to erase deficits through drastic budget cuts have left him a villainous figure to many Michiganders. These are many of the same people you hear decrying his new education plan. By introducing these reforms while trimming the state's K-12 education budget by 4%, Snyder is hoping to do more with less. Personally, I couldn't be more in favor of the breath of fresh air he's blowing into the Michigan education system, but there's a lot more at play.
Snyder's plans, while promising, will take time to enact; schools, on the other hand, must act on his budget restrictions immediately. In Michigan, a state where union membership is mandatory for public school teachers, archaic ?last hired ? first fired? policies are still controlling who gets laid off. By not addressing collective bargaining, Snyder's education cutbacks will end up dealing an unintended blow: the jobs of young teachers. I know this because it could have been me. When I joined Fordham last fall, I passed up an offer to teach civics and history at a public high school in Michigan. Had I taken the job, I undoubtedly would be receiving a pink slip right now (two former colleagues of mine already have).
Don't get me wrong, Rick Snyder is definitely the man for the job in Michigan. Education analysts attacking his policies for, ?balancing the burden on the teachers and working class while not making businesses share the load,? clearly have no idea how economics work. By cutting the business tax, Snyder is addressing the heart of the employment problem in Michigan and creating a major incentive for new and growing businesses to open shop in the state (for readers falling into the category mentioned at the top of the paragraph, this means more jobs). He is not going after teachers; he's merely asking the education system to become sustainable. The proof is in the mechanisms allowing senior, tenured teachers to keep their jobs that he's left in place. Unfortunately, it comes at the expense of energetic, young teachers, who most likely will be turned away from teaching in Michigan as a result.