Over the weekend, several thousand people demonstrated at Michigan’s Capitol to protest against Governor Rick Snyder’s budget cuts in state funding for public schools. The state has already reduced per-pupil funding by $170, but Snyder has proposed an additional cut of $300 for the fiscal year, which would start on the first of October.
The governor and leaders of the GOP-controlled legislature struck a deal to restore $100 to $200 per student, the amount depending on whether schools districts adopted “best practices,” according to officials.
Some in attendance at Saturday’s protest called for Snyder to be removed from office. It would take about 807,000 signatures, or 25 percent of the gubernatorial votes from the 2010 election, to recall Snyder.
In a written statement on their website, firericksnyder.org, the sell-described nonpartisan PAC states the recall effort was launched in opposition to what they perceive as a “direct threat to the democratic values held by the people of Michigan.”
Specifically, the group takes issue with the signing and passage of the Emergency Financial Manager bill, which gives the governor “sweeping control of towns, cities and school districts by allowing him to appoint individuals as well as corporate entities to key positions overseeing those establishments, empowering them to nullify all existing contracts while renegotiating their own.”
One of the central organizers of the event was the Michigan Education Association (MEA). Iris Salters, president of MEA, expressed frustration with Snyder’s policies.
“We’re here to let people in our communities know that the very people who were on this lawn are the people that are responsible for the services that they get every day,” Salters said “If we don’t take care of those who are providing for us our public services, then our quality of life won’t be worth squat.”
Also in attendance were the Michigan AFL-CIO and some UAW members who joined the protest in solidarity.
UAW members Deborah Davis and Mack Beale came to the rally from Detroit. Davis is a retired union member and fears her pension could be at risk. Beale said he couldn't tolerate cuts to education.
"It affects my grandchildren, my nieces and my nephews," he said.
"Stop saying you're for education, and then cutting money for education," Beale said.
Hundreds of protesters also gathered outside the House and Senate chambers on the second floor of Texas’s state Capitol this weekend to protest $4 billion proposed education cuts.
Chants from the crowd were audible inside the chambers as lawmakers held Saturday working sessions in their hectic winddown toward the Legislature's May 30 adjournment.
A group of about 75 to 100 protesters assembled just outside the front door of the House chamber, chanting: "We're watching. We vote." Many of the demonstrators wore white T-shirts emblazoned with "The Eyes of Texas are Upon You—Vote No to Education cuts."
Protesters remain angry with lawmakers despite legislative leaders’ claim that they’ve softened the blow by reducing the cuts from an initial proposal of $10 billion.
"I got up at 5 this morning to come down here because the state of Texas is about to destroy its public school system," said Christine Fougerousse of Fort Worth, a senior English teacher at Arlington High School. "I hope that the current budget doesn't pass. If that means we need to go to a special session, let's do it."
Harriet Irby, 68, of Pantego, a retired teacher, said she fears that the cuts will worsen problems that already plague the state's education system.
"It's in bad shape now, and when they cut it deeply, it can only get worse," she said. "We can't have a functioning democracy without a public school system that works."