Wednesday, August 17, 2011

FOOD FIGHT

http://tinyurl.com/3lzenmo
http://tinyurl.com/3apv6wz

Currently, Detroit Public Schools are under the control of a governor-appointed Emergency Financial Manager, former General Motors executive Roy Roberts. Plans are underway to merge the lowest performing 5% of statewide schools into a single district, targeting reform until academic standards/graduation rates are raised. Roberts has only been in office since approximately May of 2011, but his tenure has been controversial. Among the complaints against him are a recent announcement of an across-the-board 10% wage cut for teachers in the system, as well as a recent voiding of all contractual based services pending a re-evaluation. Labor interests such as the Detroit Federation of Teachers are promising to fight Roberts' reform efforts in court. This week, controversy struck again, but from a different corridor.

Just the other day, a new federally funded pilot program has been announced for this fall. All children in the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) system will be given free lunch. Up until now, reportedly 78% of children in DPS were eligible for free breakfast & lunch, but one challenge in that was the ongoing stigma among children associated with being ‘on the free lunch’, and many opt not to get it to 'save face'; also some parents are neglectful and do not fill out the paperwork for clearance.

"There in school, see? I'm made a fool; with one-and-a-half pair of pants, you ain't cool. But there's no dollars for nothing else; I got beans, rice, and bread on my shelf..."
Boogie Down Productions, "Love's Gonna Get'cha", 1990

Michigan is one of three states participating in this program (also Illinois and Kentucky): If at least 40% of the children in a school district are under the federal poverty line, that district can apply for the district-wide free meals program.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the announcement has come under attack. All over local message boards, people are complaining about “their taxes” being misused by legions of bridge-card (food stamp) users, while the remaining, ultra-law-abiding and completely subsidy-free-since-birth folks are assumedly left to pick up the entire tab. I'm pissed.

Since this is a federal program with an implicit connection to the Obama administration, I can only (vainly) hope that is not one of the reasons behind all the so-called pushback. And for those in the region who don’t live in Detroit, why are they so hung up? Why do they feel so personally aggrieved by this development? Nominally at least, many have been on-board with the top-down school reform efforts as manifested in the appointing of an emergency manager to guide DPS. Do they really think that they’re not going to be able to buy that mink coat or a Corvette or new summer home because a few thousand urban Detroit kids get to eat a hot breakfast & lunch 5 days a week? Do they really think that? Is that really where our region is at? God bless America...

I have yet to hear the outrage from people complaining about the repairs to Michigan public roads that they ‘never’ drive, even though ‘our’ taxes pay for it (‘highway socialism’?) It's almost hilarious.

The intellectual hypocrisy implicit in the arguments of reactionaries is nakedly bare. Bush-era Tax breaks, Unemployment insurance, SSI/Disability, Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, going to college on the G.I. Bill, and more.People swearing that they live their lives completely free from any and all forms of "government supplement" are fooling themselves. If you want to live completely tax free, go found your own country.

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