INVEST IN OUR MOVEMENT: Committee to Elect Dennis Smith. P.O.Box 142. Centreville, MI
· Public Money for Public Schools
. No vouchers for private schools
. End charter schools
. Tuition free, Pre-K through
. No guns in schools
. Greater building security
· 21st Century Jobs
. More training in skilled trades
. Training in energy sector jobs
· Living wage for all
. Restore Prevailing Wage law
· Promotion of regional assets
. Easy access to transportation
. Great recreational assets: lakes,
streams, woodlands, parks
· Protect our natural resources
. Greater regulation of pipelines and
hazardous material transport
· Promote sustainable energy
. Lessen dependence on fossil fuels
· Universal Healthcare for all
· Protect women, minorities, and LGBTQ rights
· Protect voting rights
. Work toward pay equity
I get asked a lot why I get so jazzed up about public education in Michigan. Here is why.
As a beginning physics teacher at Flint’s Northwestern High School (now Northwestern Preparatory Academy) back in the early 70’s, both my teaching colleague and I lamented that so few students of color chose any of the sciences as an elective course. Many of the students in that district came from poor homes and rough neighborhoods. Both of us were convinced that education was critical to the future well being Northwestern’s students.
So, rather than lament the status quo, we went recruiting, purposely inviting students of color, both male and female, to give physics a try.
I remember that first year. I remember when a student I shall call Marcus, took us up on our offer, walked through the door on the first day of class and asked out loud, “What do you have for me?”
Joyfully, it was all we could do as teachers to keep up with Marcus’ hunger for knowledge. He confessed one day that he would never have thought to take physics had we not invited him.
I confess that I have never since met a student as bright and eager as Marcus. He graduated that year and on the basis of his SAT scores and staff recommendations secured enough scholarship money to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology the following fall. The last I heard, he was a highly successful aeronautic engineer, doing his part to keep America the greatest nation on the planet.
Yes, I am passionate about quality, public education. Given his life circumstances at the time, I am pretty sure Marcus’ mother would not have enrolled him at a charter school – had one existed in those days.
Marcus was a star and deserved the best the public education could offer him. All children, regardless of ability or background, deserve a first-rate education. I am proud that my colleague and I were there for Marcus at that time and, as a state representative, I will do all I can to assure that other caring, perceptive teachers are there for the kids in our schools today. I will do all that I can to assure that all of our education tax dollars go to fund public education for all students, regardless of race, gender, or economic status.
Leave the Prevailing Wage law alone!
According to the Associated Press (May31, 2018), “Michigan lawmakers could begin voting as soon as next week on veto-proof legislation to repeal Michigan’s prevailing wage law …”
The Prevailing Wage law, enacted in 1965, requires contractors of government jobs to pay local wage and benefits, usually consistent with union scale. Non-union contractors have consistently opposed this provision of state law, but supporters argue that low-bid contracts could endanger the quality of government projects.
Prevailing wage is a fair wage and varies from region to region across the state in accordance with local economies and demand. It is a law that has protected both workers and the integrity of state projects for over 50 years.
Call, write, email, or tweet. Tell your state representatives and senators to leave the prevailing wage law in place. It’s been good for Michigan. Leave it alone!
Update: In June, 2018, the Michigan legislature abolished the Prevailing Wage law in spite of opposition by Governor Snyder.
Whether you think of yourself as rich or not, many of you who are reading this likely belong to that 10% of Americans who control 90% of the wealth in this country. Though not a popular political subject, I want to address the issue of poverty.
Many people think of poverty as an urban problem: Rundown neighborhoods, street gangs, long lines at soup kitchens and food pantries. I have worked the soup kitchens and stocked the pantries. I have seen the face of urban poverty in the frustration of a working mother who can’t decide between Ravioli and Spaghettios because she doesn’t have time or money to cook a regular meal between part time jobs. I have seen the face of urban poverty in the exhausted glares of students at Flint’s Northwestern High School. For some of them the only safe place they had in a day was in my classroom, sometimes sleeping on a lab table. I have seen the face of urban poverty in the anxious fidgeting of renters who have been robbed of what few luxuries they could afford and then wondered if they could afford the burglar alarm system I was trying to sell them. In those days, Paula and I were the face of temporary poverty. We all have seen the face of urban poverty on TV exposes of the Flint water crisis, the faces of poisoned children and distraught parents.
What many people in Washington and Lansing don’t seem to get is that rural poverty is just as real and just as urgent and just as intractable as any urban blight. As a pastor for 32 years, I have also seen the face of rural poverty, often hidden away along dusty dirt roads, behind torn curtains and guarded by snarling dogs. I have seen the face of rural poverty in embarrassed, downward glances of late-night shoppers at Walmart. I have seen the face of rural poverty in the furtive stares of children, locked away in a mobile home while mom, and maybe a dad, are at work.
In St. Joseph County, a largely rural county, the overall poverty rate is nearly 16%. For children under 5 years it is a staggering 35%. These figures are from the US census, not some exaggerated, wacky, left wing website. In Cass County it is 15% and 30% respectively. Free and reduced school lunches are nearly 70% in some of our local schools.
Many of you all know that the surest ticket out of poverty is education. As the census data confirms, people with less than a high school education are virtually condemned to live at or very near the poverty line all their lives.
Here are some more scary stats. In Cass County, nearly 13% of the population over 25 years old have less than a high school education. 35% have only a high school diploma. In St. Joseph County, the figures are similar.
People ask me why I have chosen to enter the political fray rather than just retire and go sailing. The answer is, I cannot look upon the faces of poverty and fear and despair - and look away. For 32 years, I have handed out cans of Ravioli, distributed gas vouchers and served bowls of soup to people who should and could be earning a living wage if our legislators made it a priority. For 32 years I have seen the ravages of poor nutrition and health care in faces of children. For 32 years I have struggled to put band-aids on social wounds that should never have been opened.
Now is the time to put away the band-aids and fix the problems. Now is the time to put our fiscal priorities right. Now is the time to properly fund the education of our young people from Pre-K through college. Now is the time to make vocational education free and accessible. Now is the time to make sure every citizen in our state has proper health care, including dental and vision. Now is the time to make Michigan once again the greatest state in the country.
I have looked upon the faces of poverty and over the past several months now, I have also looked upon the many faces of indifference. I see it in the sideways glances of ten percenters who wonder why everyone can’t “make it” the way they did. I see it in the frowns of those who never have to worry about dental care when I mention that Medicaid doesn’t cover it. I see it in the smirks of those who truly believe that they will never be challenged by candidates like Ian Haight and me, because the Republicans have such an iron lock on the politics of SW Michigan.
I want to put a different face on the politics of the 59th House District. It’s not just my face, but the face of hope for those who felt no one heard them or cared, the face of progress for those who feel stuck in the status quo, the face of promise for a better future for all our citizens and not just the contented 10%.
Now is the time for we who have the means to step up and support the change we want to see. We can do that through monetary contributions to the candidates we want to see in office. (see the ActBlue link on this site) We can do that by knocking on doors, talking to our neighbors, sharing the message on social media, and calling everyone we know. We can do that If we really want to win this election.
After reading this commentary, I hope you will support my campaign.
Formerly posted on Facebook