Michigan is making national headlines for the water crisis in Flint and the teacher protest in Detroit Public Schools (DPS). Less obvious is how this state has seen one blow to the wellbeing of children after another. It is not completely the fault of the second term governor, but as Snyder said in his State of the State, "the buck stops here with me." Whether a stand against Snyder is a symbolic gesture for equality and safety for all children or a political statement for one party or another, it is crucial to understand the deplorable events during his reign and how they have impacted children.
Although the discussion is endless, three topics dominate: education, water, and taxes. Lead in Flint's water caused by pulling corrosive water from the Flint River is an unspeakable tragedy in the lack of proper government oversight. It seems like every member involved has someone to blame. The most vulnerable citizens are the children. Imagine the horror of parents trying to keep their children hydrated by encouraging them to drink water at school, after their athletic match, or even trying to get over the flu and learn of irreversible poisoning.
The other current headline is teachers in DPS taking sick-outs to protest the governor's plan for the district's budget and for poor building conditions. The plight of DPS might be the most extreme case, but Michigan public schools have become disenfranchised. I have written on the subversion of local democracy concerning a Detroit Free Press report on charter schools, and an article for Bridge Magazine explaining how poor policy will hurt schools. Every school district in the state has been negatively impacted by direct policies from Lansing. Furthermore, The Free Press reported almost a year ago about less students enrolling in colligate teacher preparation programs because of decreasing compensation and nonproductive scrutiny. The stress within schools seems it may snap at any moment, and again the children are the most vulnerable.
Gilda Jacobs explained to Stephen Henderson on WDET how Michigan's impoverished children have fallen further behind. She explained how tax shifts and changes to food and cash assistance programs take money from working families. The Free Press reported in 2014 how the tax structure benefited business while the average person paid more. Notably is the reduction of the Earned Income Tax Credit (designed to reward low-income, working families), which, as MLive reported , some Republicans sought to eliminate altogether after their Republican predecessors helped to create it. This movement in tax policy over years has not created the job growth needed to support the poorest families. It instead dangles people on the edge of the poverty line and suppresses hard working parents from working their way out of poverty.
It is cliché to say children are the future no matter how true it might be. There is a greater moral concern about what is happening in Michigan. One of the duties of government is to protect citizens when they cannot protect themselves. Parental obligation is dependent on the trust of government to share their concern over child safety and development. The scariest words to hear are not that the government is here to help, but when government has to say sorry. Governor Snyder has apologized for the crisis in Flint, but it is time for more politicians to take responsibility for all their decisions.