Whoopee Ti Yi Yo, Git Along Little Dogies
Some boys goes up the trail for pleasure,
But that’s where you get it most awfully wrong;
For you haven’t any idea the trouble they give us
While we go driving them all along.
Whoopee Ti Yi Yo, Git Along Little Dogies
When the night comes on and we hold them on the bedground,
These little dogies that roll on so slow;
Roll up the herd and cut out the strays,
And roll the little dogies that never rolled before.
Whoopee Ti Yi Yo, Git Along Little Dogies
Traditional 19th Century American Cowboy Cattle Drive Song
Michigan’s tax-and-spend establishment continues to demonstrate world class tactical flexibility as they pursue their dubious ends. Their latest tour de force is the setup for the impending Detroit Public Schools bailout. Michigan’s legislators are being driven like cattle.
The new state appointed
emergency transition manager of the Detroit Public Schools, retired U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Steven W. Rhodes, announced that the district would shut down on April 8th due to a lack of funds. This chilling announcement came a week after Governor Snyder appointed him to replace Darnell Early, who resigned at the end of February. Darnell Early, for some reason, failed to inform Michigan of the April 8th drop dead date. Judge Rhodes made his announcement four weeks in advance of the projected shutdown in a full court press to get a bailout from our State Legislature.
The first problem here is the State Legislature is scheduled to take two weeks off in the four weeks leading up to April 8th. The last week of March and the first week of April. Judge Rhodes certainly knew this, so the dilatory announcement is unquestionably a deliberate effort to stampede the Michigan Legislature into immediately delivering $ 50 – 70 million to DPS, no questions asked. Two weeks is not a reasonable legislative time frame, rather it is herding legislators like cattle on a two week drive. An echo of the tactics used by Judge Rhodes to ram through the bungled Detroit bankruptcy.
Governor Snyder has been floating an inchoate plan to rescue the Detroit Public Schools since the middle of last year; one which originally envisioned the creation of a ‘bad debt’ shell district and a new, debt free district by cellular division. Wasn’t really well received anywhere, even after he added dissolution of the much hated Education Achievement Authority. As his problems in the Flint water fiasco have mounted, Governor Snyder decided to wash his hands of the DPS situation by throwing $ 700 million at them to extinguish their ‘operating’ debt and return control to the next generation of
local thieves elected school board members.
The second problem here is that $ 700 million, even though it is spread out over 10 years. That amounts to a $ 1,489 annual extra grant for each of the approximately 47,000 DPS students. Even if you trim that to $ 500 million, it amounts to a $ 1,064 annual extra grant per student. This can’t come from conventional Michigan school funding without reducing the funds available to every other public school student.
Michigan has 1,540,005 students in 909 public school districts across the state. No way are the administrators of those other districts going to stand idly by and watch Detroit eat their lunch. Nor are the parents of the other 1,493,000 public school students in Michigan. A violation of fundamental equality is in the offing here, and the political fallout is going to be wicked. So it won’t happen.
Treating all of Michigan’s public school students equally raises the 10 year cost of the DPS bailout to $ 16.4 billion at a $ 1,064 annual extra grant per student, $ 22.9 billion at a $ 1,489 annual extra grant per student. This is an awful lot of money for a state fisc which couldn’t pony up $ 1.2 billion in extra annual road funding last year without massive new taxes.
Governor Snyder has attempted to circumvent the equality issue by proposing the use of tobacco settlement funds for only DPS, but this is nothing more than eyewash. Those tobacco settlement funds, regardless of what you think of their legitimacy, are the property of all Michigan residents. Diverting them to Detroit just camouflages the equality issue. Governor Snyder seems to hold the general intellectual capacity of Michigan residents in contempt.
The third problem here is Governor Snyder’s determination to return DPS to local control. DPS was not a well functioning school district, even before Governor Snyder was inaugurated. Governor Granholm actually appointed Robert Bobb as the first emergency financial manager of DPS. It is worth noting that Robert Bobb found a cesspool of corruption behind DPS’s financial difficulties:
“Indeed, I found Detroit Public Schools to be a magnificent vessel of wholesale theft and graft. Not one area of management escaped the thieves and defrauders: One high school food service worker stuffed as much as $200 daily from lunchroom sales into her apron and bra. A teacher and her mother, a contract accountant, placed $500,000 worth of orders for supplies from a sham company they had created. Ten people collectively stole more than 1,500 laptops. Even sworn police officers assigned to my security detail committed fraud, submitting phony overtime reports.”
Anecdotal evidence suggests that corruption is still an issue, but its current extent is just unknown. Does anyone think returning DPS to local control pell-mell won’t usher in a new golden age of corruption? Detroit politicians seem more focused on self aggrandizement than public service. Everything they touch, from water to home demolitions, reeks of corruption. Why Detroit politicians are so opposed to state management of city functions. It cuts off the gravy train.
What to Do?
First, keep DPS alive to the end of the school year, but don’t just hand them a $ 70 million down payment on Governor Snyder’s ten year plan. It will not require $ 70 million to keep DPS alive until the end of the school year. There is plenty of time to develop a long term plan once a few facts are established. Legislators should not be stampeded like cattle.
Second, spend the summer doing a good forensic accounting of DPS books. Governor Snyder has a bad habit of tossing out large numbers preceded by dollar signs which he is provided by his brown nosing bureaucrats (remember $ 1.2 billion?). Provide a detailed assessment of DPS’ current predicament and likely progression under an established set of assumptions.
Third, our full time legislators should put some real effort into developing an array of alternative plans. One of which should be a genuine bankruptcy. Mayor Duggan and the DPS bureaucrats can propose their own plans, as long as they consider the statewide ramifications.
Then we can have an informed debate on the future of the Detroit Public Schools.
The overarching problem with education finance in Michigan under Proposal A is that we have local bureaucrats of disparate abilities and intentions spending state funds without any accountability to the actual source of those funds: the State of Michigan. Yes, they answer to their local voters through elected school boards, but those local boards are not raising the funds they spend. Candidates for local office can make generous spending promises without any consequences. Once in office, their poor mouthing is incessant.
School districts all get the same per pupil State grants to spend with little oversight unless they crash into one of the PA 436 triggers. Due to the miracle of debt financing, the mysterious nature of pension funding, and the vagaries of enrollment, a school district’s fisc can go from fine to PA 436 trigger in the bat of an eye. Responsible school districts rarely get into trouble. Irresponsible school districts, such as DPS, are in continuous trouble.
Michigan’s 1963 Constitution was written 30 years before the Proposal A school financing scheme was devised. Article IV, Section 53 establishes the Office of the Auditor General, but limits its jurisdiction to auditing only post transaction, and only “financial transactions and accounts of the state and of all branches, departments, offices, boards, commissions, agencies, authorities and institutions of the state established by this constitution or by law, and performance post audits thereof.” Note that this effectively exempts local governments and school boards spending state funds from the jurisdiction of the Office of the Auditor General. Roughly a quarter of all State funds spent are excluded from review by the Office of the Auditor General.
Should anyone be surprised that school outcomes (or road outcomes, for that matter) vary markedly across our state? From great to awful. With varying degrees of corruption.
Before you dismiss this proposal as a heresy which creates state control of local schools; please note that this proposal is only equilateral auditing of school boards (and other local government units), only insofar as they are spending state funds. The goal would be to rank comparable units of local government so local voters can know what their officials are accomplishing. Local units of government and school boards have been able to hide behind 100 plus page CAFRs, rendering local control impossible. In some cases – such as DPS – very bad things happen behind this veil.
Expanding the jurisdiction of the MOAG is not control, rather it is reporting to the residents of Michigan the usage of their tax dollars. Financial and performance audits, post transaction. Not control, not even adult supervision. Just a system to compare the effectiveness and performance of local government units’ expenditure of state funds. Fun statistics and rankings which can be used to shame the laggards.
A select few of Michigan’s local government units have been lead by socialist demagogues who have spent wildly on the presumption that they can blackmail the State into paying off their extravagances by claiming racism or class discrimination. Their irresponsible spending has been greeted with enthusiasm by voters, employees, nitwit media, and corporate parasites. This is why the repetitive cycle of emergency management, followed by a return to socialist demagogue local control has failed miserably. Everyone benefiting from local government extravagances have been able to claim that they were innocent, ignorant parties and transfer the costs of the inevitable reckoning to Michigan’s taxpayers at large.
Auditing and ranking performance of local governments’ usage of State funds would quickly end this vicious cycle. Knocking the props out from under socialist demagogues would allow the pain of genuine bankruptcies, disciplining those demagogues and all the parasites who enable them.
Yet another well put together piece which begs but one question:
If grassroot conservatives aren't discussing (publicly) these very same problems/solutions in any identifiable forum of consequence (see 'Flint' as well)..and our legislators are about to take two weeks off..why isn't grassroots leadership insisting on or setting up town halls (themselves) to discuss even half-billion pension bailout 'mistakes' while these legislators are (soon) back at home?
We've been asking this same question since August of '09 when these same recesses birthed historic town halls..or the last time that MiGOP legislators were genuinely afraid of grassroot precinct delegates/angry voters pressuring them to actually attend one.
Apparently, we (all) ran out of torches and pitchforks since then..as well as invitation cards.
"why isn't grassroots leadership insisting on or setting up town halls (themselves) to discuss even half-billion pension bailout 'mistakes' while these legislators are (soon) back at home? "
Short answer, what point would it be to hold anything in Detroit?
DPS parents (or more accurately grandparents and/or other family members) have already clearly demonstrated that the overwhelming majority DO NOT care about the education of these children.
If they did then they wouldn't be doing things like electing illiterate school board members and tolerating the widespread graft (see US v. Campbell).
^^^^..it's starting to look as if this is the first time in Michigan history (save Right to Work) that Republican legislators can be GUARANTEED all the press that WE would ever desire should they show up at a town hall to face the 'unwashed' in their own neighborhoods.
"Wake up" TP precinct delegates and start planning these two week upcoming parties (whether THEY refuse to attend or not) ...or will we all need $50 'each' to even get started? (perhaps we can cut out the comedians, cash bars or VIP back-slapping nights and just meet in a park downtown somewhere like the old days).
They obviously won't come if 'somebody' doesn't demand it or make hay out of the refusal during the few times this (historic) year we are given the opportunity.
A couple of points:
First, DPS is literally drowning in debt! The latest and greatest numbers still have it pegged at $3.5-billion.
When was the last time that you've heard our
ineptintrepid Governor Snyder mention that troubling number? How about emergency managertransition manager Steven Rhodes? Has you local rep even hinted at this number while they avoided answering your questions regarding another Detroit bailout?
Second, Detroit academic standards are bad.
I mean really, really bad.
So bad, in fact, that if they were imposed by anyone outside of Detroit proper, it would be considered an act of war.
I've mentioned previously that some Detroit parents have tried to circumvent this matter by
sneaking"enrolling their children" into surrounding districts to the detriment of the students already living within those districts.
Third (and this is pulling from a piece that I'm in the process of kludging together), contrary to the arguments being made by Snyder, Rhodes, et al, Lansing has already fulfilled its constitutional responsibility in this matter. It cut a check to DPS, DPS promptly spent it and DPS students are no smarter because of it.
Most people have forgotten that what we have here is a similar situation with what very recently went down in Highland Park.
I wouldn't hold out very much hope on forensic audits or even AG Schuette getting even remotely interested. It's a dirty little secret that state government in not very interested in investigating any wrong-doings with sub-units of government in Michigan. Even less-so when it comes to prosecuting them (see Exhibit "A": Kwame Kilpatrick's criminal enterprise).
There is ABSOLUTELY no point in continuing this charade any longer.
The best thing that Lansing can do in this situation is to turn off the money spigot and let DPS collapse on its own. Contain the problem by preventing students from enrolling in neighboring countries (read: Macomb & Oakland) unless those districts are already SoC. Finally, it should repeal the Michigan EM law so that when this happens with other districts in the future (and it will), they are allowed to fail without becoming a long-term drain on our wallets.
Just my $0.02.
"It cut a check to DPS, DPS promptly spent it .... state government in not very interested in investigating any wrong-doings with sub-units of government in Michigan. [Full stop]
Poof! PFM! "Finally, it should repeal the Michigan EM law"
You answered your own "sub-units" pretzel as to why the $50M gap is going to be approved thru June and, the debt obligation will be amortized.
Yes, the Iltich hole is filled too: http://rightmi.com/constantine-is-giving-us-our-wings/
Look at what happened with the ACLU and their so-called "Right to read" lawsuit back on '12, then get back, to me
DPS won't fare any better.
This 'Right to read' decision? "The appellate court said the state has no constitutional requirement to ensure schoolchildren actually learn fundamental skills such as reading — but rather is obligated only to establish and finance a public education system, regardless of quality."
Thanks for proving my point, KG
There was a little bit more to it than that, but whatever...
Actually, your missive is unequivocally "on par" no different than this- http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/28/politics/justices-rule-police-do-not-have-a-constitutional-duty-to-protect-someone.html
So, I'm not sure what shit you're trying to run but, whatever...
While I agree with turning off the "money spigot(s)" KG...how does the DPS unfunded liability situation differ from any other publicly funded union-based (or not) parasite fund sucking the lifeblood out of our children's future elsewhere?
Or was Senate Bill 1129 of 2012 ("pension obligation bonds with no vote of the people required" ) supported UNANIMOUSLY by TP types and their MiGOP masters...designed to create but ONE class of perpetual bloodsuckers..over all others?
Doesn't DPS deserve a 2nd or even 3rd "pension obligation bond" whether this theft comes from ALL of us (statewide) or not?
Ironically, this is all somewhat akin to the violence at RTW that nobody cared about (for long) and the intentional effort by both sides (and the TPers) to discourage rallies of ANY type in the future.
Act indignant and horrified to everything around you (see the similarly staged violence at Trump rallies benefitting ALL sides today)...yet claim 'ignorance' as to never letting a good crisis (of your own making) go to waste.
While, I wouldn't completely rule out anyone from Moveon.org or the BLM-crowd from attempting to make something out of the DPS debacle, I'm not getting the vibe of very much support for that here locally.
DPD isn't going to take any you-know-what from these idiots and last weekends recent example should reinforce that.
Ah, for the days of Reagan...
An excellent article, with one key piece of the puzzle missing -- school choice. Allowing DPS to default and go into bankruptcy is step 1. Step 2 should be allowing charters to absorb the rest of the DPS students which parents have been fleeing to by the thousands. This will eliminate any new pension obligations moving forward.
Suggesting a Soros, Bush, Zuckerberg, Skinner, and Koch brothers styled H-1B teaching staff, are you?
I'm suggesting we let parents choose what they believe to be the best school for their child, instead of forcing them to attend failing public schools run by teacher's unions.
So, why not adopt them into your community school district if you're a choice advocate?
It'd be fun, kinda like illegal aliens flooding in from Mexico or, visa over-stayers playing nation of choice, yannow?
The district system and the influence of teacher's unions make that virtually impossible. Better to blow up the failed district and start over.
You're sounding hypocritical, Arch. That or, just a lazy band-aid type who has no influence in your community other than looking for loopholes- https://youtu.be/8MH499p0Tpc?t=3m13s
A moment of our thoughts should be with Todd, right now.