In Michigan, we are seeing a troubling phenomenon that we are seeing across the country today: public schools so starved of funding that students are returning to increasingly crowded classes taught by fewer and fewer teachers, with fewer textbooks and less of everything they need. But rather than investing in our public schools, misguided polices in Michigan and across the states are instead pushing struggling schools further into financial crisis, making them vulnerable to the loss of local control through state takeovers or potential moneymaking opportunities for private investors via for-profit charter schools.
As of this week, more than half of the fifty states had already seen their 2013 legislative sessions adjourn. In many of those that are still going, budget debates are front and center as lawmakers race to the finish line. In some states, issues that had previously been pushed to the backburner are back on the front one, in others, major provisions are being inserted into the budget at the midnight hour, and everywhere, final showdowns are shaping up as sessions wind down.
The plain hypocrisy of "small-government" conservatives backing state efforts to preempt local communities from passing their own wage and benefits standards continues to gain attention, even as more local efforts to pass paid sick days and living wage laws advance. But, as reports this week showed, corporate-backed state legislative intrusions into local communities have not been limited to attacking wage and benefits standards -- they have also extended to blocking local environmental regulations and redrawing district lines for local offices:
In recent months, unprecedented strikes by fast-food workers have taken place in both New York City and Chicago. This week, the action spread even further through the heart of the country, as workers in St. Louis and Detroit staged one-day work stoppages to demand higher wages and the right to organize. At the same time that such strikes are spreading, anti-worker legislative attacks that have already spread through many neighboring states in recent years are being met with strong opposition throughout the region as well. Workers in Missouri and states across the Midwest continued this week to stand up both in the streets and at statehouses to demand fair wages and respect on the job:
Taxes are on the minds of many this week as April 15th approaches. They're also on the minds of many conservative governors -- in states such as Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Nebraska -- who have seen their radical tax proposals to further enrich corporations and the wealthy run into major resistance from voters, businesses, and even conservative lawmakers. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who this week withdrew his regressive plan that would have eliminated the state income tax while raising the sales tax, has seen his standing drop sharply in the polls. In the run up to Tax Day, increasing attention is being focused on how tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations increase burdens on the middle class.
From Missouri to Pennsylvania to D.C., anti-union "right-to-work" laws are still being proposed and debated. Michigan workers continue to fight their law in the courts weeks before it is set to take effect, while workers in nearby states remain prepared for similar legislation to emerge. Meanwhile, an "anti-right-to-work" bill moved forward in Vermont — legislation that would require all workers who receive benefits thanks to a union to pay their fair share.