Phil Power and “Stunningly Superficial Knowledge…”

Well, I may take heat for what I am about to say, so what else is new.

To quote Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Phil Power’s guest column today on the MI State Board of Ed, reflects “stunningly superficial knowledge….it is almost embarrassing to listen to…” him.

John Engler’s 1996 Executive Orders turned the Mi State Board of Ed into the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion. They have become a Board that has no brain, heart or courage. I fought for this Board’s elected authority in 2007 through HB 5323, and John Austin did not even support my legislative effort. An “elected” President of the SBE does not value “elected” authority. Phil Power referred to Mr. Austin as “one of the smartest and most imaginative people in public service today.” Based upon his service as a member and president of the SBE, I respectfully disagree.

I have had to come to terms with the fact that this SBE has worn out its constitutional welcome. They do nothing that has a real and lasting impact on public education and they have neglected special education to a degree that is unconscionable. Their failed process and outcome toward selecting a new State Superintendent is the final educational-straw for me. I no longer believe the SBE should exist and think we need an effort to push for a ballot proposal to “restore” the State Superintendent’s elected authority. Currently the State Superintendent has dictatorial authority due to Engler and this has not served MI children or the health and wellbeing of our state.

I do know the name of every SBE member. I have tried hard for the past fourteen years, to engage each and every one, in dialogue on the issues that I hold dear. I have raised serious concerns about our current State Superintendent and staff at the MDE, and based upon documentation and facts.

I have shared that the United States Department of Ed, Office for Civil Rights found the MDE out of compliance pursuant to my February 2014 complaint alleging violations to Section 504 and the ADA. Yes! The OCR found our MDE in noncompliance. The Department’s website for the one-month public comment period in Feb/March 2014 on the MARSE proposed revisions did not provide “access” to some individuals with disabilities. Ironic huh? Disgusting? You bet. So, did this Board ask Superintendent Flanagan questions or raise concerns about a federal OCR investigation that I triggered? No, Nope, Nada.

Moving on, not one member of the SBE attended the House Oversight Hearing held on September 23, 2014. A hearing convened to take testimony on the MDE’s special education complaint processes, or lack thereof. Not one member of the SBE attended the December 11, 2014 JCAR hearing.. A hearing that brought enough parents and children, to pack two rooms and the hallway of our Capitol. A hearing that saw a Lt. Governor enter the room and present powerful testimony as a “father first,” and legislator “second,” and against proposed revisions to the Mi Admin Rules for Special Ed that would have obliterated any hope of meaningful instruction for 200,000 K-12 students. This State Board with so-called constitutional empowerment to provide “leadership and oversight,” has been silent and missing in action. A lack of leadership and oversight; and complete unwillingness to hold our State Superintendent accountable.

I have fought to see many of our past and current SBE members elected, and including this November 2014 Election Day-massacre. I was momentarily thrilled that the SBE had successfully held two Democratic seats in a gubernatorial and legislative Red Sea of Republicans. AND, I am sorry, to have wasted efforts that I could have steered toward more worthy campaigns or legislative initiatives. Democrats or Republicans on the SBE….It does not and has not mattered since John Engler turned an elected body into an insignificant, almost invisible, elected non-entity.

Phil Power has a far bigger audience, more power and recognized voice than I do, and he did a grave injustice to Michigan readers in this guest column. He had an opportunity to educate and instead reflected “stunningly superficial knowledge.”

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