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The Circular Firing Squad of Michigan Politics

My man Jack Lessenberry nails it, especially with this line:

What we do know is that without some form of higher education, the good life, or maybe even any kind of job, is not going to be possible for today's Michiganders. You simply cannot support yourself flipping burgers at McDonald's, even if you can find a job there. Everybody in the state Legislature knows this.

And...

The Legislature already has voted to sabotage our future. They have slashed funding for early childhood development, and are cutting spending for public education by $165 a pupil. The cynics, careerists and hypocrites among them are acting as if that were a victory for the kids, since earlier, the "leadership" had happily agreed to cut it by $218.

Now, Republican legislator Mike Bishop, the state Senate Majority Leader, is apparently trying to draw a line in the sand when it comes to restoring funding for the Michigan Promise scholarship program, which provides $4,000 to each Michigan student who completes two years of of post-secondary education with a 2.5 GPA or better. Meanwhile, the costs of going to school continue to increase: our 15 state universities raised tuition by 35 percent between 2003 and 2007, largely because of cuts in their state funding. (Our Democratic governor certainly isn't without blame in the ongoing Michigan budget fiasco, but visceral and nonsensical attacks on public education funding are straight out of the GOP playbook. And, yeah, I said it.)

Some of this isn't surprising because, around here, many politicians and residents (of all stripes) often fail to hold education in the highest regard. We're not necessarily anti-intellectual in Michigan, but many of us have a long history of doing just fine without a U of M sheepskin -- or even a Detroit Cass Tech High School diploma -- adorning the wall. As Jack points out, a booming auto industry meant high-paying jobs for even the lowest-skilled workers. Even I can remember tales of guys who would could shout "screw high school" in the 11th grade, drop out to take jobs at Ford and Chrysler and still earn as much as some accountants and other professionals.

But those days are gone. And they aren't coming back. So education has to become a greater priority for us, and it's value should be reflected in how we allocate our money, despite deficits and other woes. We cannot afford to stop investing in our kids' education, even when we think such opposition can be fashioned into a winning political sound bite. And reneging on the Promise program is, to me, as cynical a political betrayal of that ideal as I can imagine.

You'd think the leaders in Lansing, our state capitol, would understand that.

Guess our high-school students aren't the only ones in need of higher learning.

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