Michigan’s Republican governor and its Republican legislature are at odds over finalizing the state budget for upcoming fiscal year. The main hangup for pols is the state teacher retirement system and whether the current system should be maintained or turned into a 401k styled plan. Politicians favoring the 401k system are falsely arguing that Michigan cannot maintain the current system. Taxpayers should not be fooled. Republican leaders are following the marching orders given to them by the mega-donating DeVos family.
There is no coincidence that Dick Devos declared, in September of 2016, that teacher pensions would be the number one focus of his efforts going forward. The DeVos family financed action committees funded politicians and political ads throughout the state, including here in the U.P. Recall also that Betsy DeVos has been quoted as saying that when she finances a politician that she expects a return on her investment. Politicians in the House and Senate now calling for pension reform are doing the bidding of their Grand Rapids based masters, the DeVos family.
Here’s the thing though, Republican Governor Snyder led changes to the pension system in 2012 and those changes are working. If allowed to move forward as planned the system will be adequately financed and school districts will face lower costs for retirement than they do today. In fact, switching to the system DeVos is stumping for would cost Michigan schools more than the current system. It is estimated that the switch would increase costs by $2.5 billion over the next five years, cost $25.7 billion in increased costs over 30 years and result in zero reduction in unfunded liabilities. Gov. Snyder’s changes should remain in place and are better for schools, the state, and employees.
Why then the rabid, expense-busting charge to change the system? Remember also that the DeVos family is fervently anti local pubic schooling. The family has led constant attacks against public schools for years. They have supported vouchers (which Michigan residents have twice voted down), and increased choice systems, such as privately owned charter schools. It is also no matter that none of these choice systems as favored by the DeVoses have proved to be better than public schools. The family has strongly resisted oversight of public schools even though successful charter systems in other states have done better due to strong state oversight.
The main objective of the DeVos family is profit, just as it is for all their other businesses. There are huge amounts of dollars that can be gained by unregulated school choice. Additionally, vouchers are mainly just a tax cut in disguise for wealthy families. Think about it, $7,500 or so (the amount school districts receive per child) is not going to give access to exclusive private schools for ordinary Michigan families. The cost of tuition for the types of schools the DeVoses send their kids to typically cost tens of thousands of dollars per year. Your kids and mine won’t be gaining entrance to these schools and all the advantages such budgets give their students. Wealthy folks will just be given a coupon with which will save them money for their kids’ tuition. Taxpayers should consider weather millionaires and billionaires really need such tax breaks at the expense of their public schools.
Meanwhile the DeVoses will invest in the type of schools and programs they can profit from. Online academies with minimal overhead costs. Services to homeschool families with voucher coupons which can be used to pay for academically worthless hobbies at private businesses. For the average family the DeVos family sees our kids as potential profit margins. Anything they do to further weaken public schools and to divert school fund dollars away from local schools and toward private investors favor enhancements to DeVos and friends bank accounts.
Changing the teacher retirement system as called for by the DeVos family is not in the best interest of public schools. It is in the best interest of politicians funded by the Devoses and DeVos business interests. Citizens should not be fooled.