Rep. Lisa Posthumus-Lyons (R-86) is up to no-good again. She’s announced plans to develop a new A through F grading system for Michigan’s schools. Lyons, a lawmaker with no education background is the GOP appointed chair of the House Committee on Education. She has not yet introduced the legislation, and offers no details on the criteria of her proposed evaluation process, but feels the relatively new color-coding system is not “transparent” enough. It is always amusing when a far-right lawmaker uses that word — one wonders if they have to practice using it in a sentence first.
Her new plan for grading schools is heartily supported by Gary Naeyaert, a strong school choice advocate from the DeVos family funded Great Lakes Education Project. The Associated Press reports Naeyaert said this of the legislation his organization is helping Lyons write:
“We’re not saying it’s letters are better than colors. We’re saying that the thinking that goes into the creation of the letters is what has to be replaced.”
No, that doesn’t make sense. Let’s hope the legislative language is a little clearer.
Lyons has been pushing hard over the last year for legislative approval of the Education Achievement Authority, which passed in the House months ago, but is currently held-up in Senate committee. The EAA is a GOP scheme, supported by Gov. Snyder, that would remove local control from all school districts performing in the bottom 5 percent in the state. As we reported last week, those are typically districts mired in poverty, and located in communities of color. Much like the emergency manager law, the end result of codifying the EAA would fall sharply along racial lines, and would most certainly provoke multiple constitutional challenges. Currently, the EAA is operating under the authority of the emergency manager of Detroit Public Schools and is serving 15 schools from that district by borrowing millions from the financially struggling district in less than “transparent” loans.
Democrat Lynn Mason, a retired teacher and current Ionia County Commissioner, recently announced she plans to run against Lyons in 2014. Mason spoke of her candidacy in The Daily News:
“I’m very disappointed in the terrible legislation that has been passed in Lansing in the past three years. Billions of dollars have been cut from our public schools, colleges and universities. State taxes have been raised on the elderly, the poor and the middle class to the tune of $1.4 billion a year in order to support a massive $1.8 billion giveaway to corporations and the rich. Where are the jobs that were supposed to be created?”
“My opponent, Lisa Posthumus Lyons, voted for all of this and other damaging legislation. I can no longer sit on the sidelines and watch destructive decisions being made. That is why I have decided to run.”
But, it will be difficult to mount a serious challenge to the incumbent education chair. Lyons is the daughter of former Senate Majority Leader Dick Posthumus, who is one of Gov. Snyder’s closest advisors. Like father, like daughter, Lyons is well-connected, and well-monied. She mimics the hubris of other tea-party leaning public officials at the national level, spewing bumper-sticker manifestos and using base language intended to insult more than inform.
Her recent farm-hand rant about teacher compensation and the dissolution of fiscally stressed school districts: “Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered” drew blow-back in the media, but no apology from the lawmaker. Lyons instead tried to claim that she was referring to lobbyists, not teachers. In a subsequent statement on the matter, she attempted to paint herself as the victim.
Speaking of swine — It is of interest that a Bay City man who recently called judges “pigs” on his juror qualification questionnaire found himself in contempt of court, and instead of serving on a jury, he may be serving time in county jail — his sentencing is on Nov. 4th.
Michigan schools deserve a better lawmaker. Let’s hope the voters of the 86th district send Lyons back to the farm.
Amy Kerr Hardin