Archives for category: Michigan

In a tv interview, Jeb Bush praised Michigan governor Rick Snyder for his leadership in responding to the Flint water crisis.

 

 

This morning, the New York Times criticized Snyder for his lack of leadership and said it was time to take action. The editorial says the state should replace the corroded water pipes in Flint, at a cost of $1 billion.

 

“The conditions on the ground in Flint still do not seem to have sunk in at the Michigan statehouse. Thousands of residents are still relying on trucked-in water, as if they were in a war-zone refugee camp, while worrying that their children may suffer developmental and other health problems from a water system poisoned by lead. Gov. Rick Snyder has been busy apologizing, but the tiny steps he is taking to repair the damage shrink beside the urgency of the problem.

“The challenge now is to replace the corroded pipes or perhaps the whole water system in this city of nearly 100,000 as quickly as it can be done. The cost may reach $1 billion or more, but that cannot stand in the way of moving forward to make the city fit for habitation. No Americans should have to live with poisoned water that is a direct result of the government’s decisions and neglect.

 

“Mr. Snyder and officials who work for him first wasted time trying to shift blame for the catastrophe to the city — at least until an independent task force and internal emails released last week showed that the state was responsible. Now he is wasting more time by maneuvering to get out of paying the bill for the huge repairs project.”

 

 

 

Remember that the shut-off of safe water was supposed to save millions. A very stupid, short-sighted, inhumane decision that will cost the state hundreds of millions and leave behind brain-damaged children.

 

 

The Néw York Times reviewed 274 pages of emails released by Governor Snyder’s office about the Flint water crisis. Confronted with multiple claims that something was wrong with the water, the Snyder administration belittled the critics.

“The correspondence records mounting complaints by the public and elected officials, as well as growing irritation by state officials over the reluctance to accept their assurances.

“It was not until late in 2015, after months of complaints, that state officials finally conceded what critics had been contending: that Flint was in the midst of a major public health emergency, as tap water pouring into families’ homes contained enough lead to show up in the blood of dozens of people in the city. Even small amounts of lead could cause lasting health and developmental problems in children….

“Though Mr. Snyder issued the emails as part of an effort to reveal the administration’s transparency on the matter, the documents provide a glimpse of state leaders who were at times dismissive of the concerns of residents, seemed eager to place responsibility with local government and, even as the scientific testing was hinting at a larger problem, were reluctant to acknowledge it.

“The messages show that from the moment Flint decided to draw its water from a new source, the Flint River, officials were discounting concerns about its quality and celebrating a change meant to save the cash-starved city millions of dollars. From 2011 to 2015, Flint was in state receivership, its finances controlled by a succession of four emergency managers appointed by Mr. Snyder’s administration.

“That upbeat mood lasted for months, even as residents began complaining about the new water’s foul odor, odd color and strange health effects, and began showing up at events with “jugs of brownish water.”

The governor has apologized.

He should be charged with willfully endangering the lives of the citizens of Flint and held accountable for his administration’s criminal negligence.

Michael Moore visited his hometown of Flint and helped to draw the national attention that this sorry situation deserves. As readers of this blog know, Governor Rick Snyder got a law passed allowing him to appoint emergency managers to take over cities and school districts that were in financial distress. The voters overturned the law. The legislature and the governor re-created it through some devious maneuver, giving Snyder the power to override democracy whenever he chooses.

 

Snyder’s EM for Flint was Darnell Earley. He decided to save money by cutting off the supply of safe water from Detroit and to have the residents use Flint River water instead. There are high concentrations of lead and other pollutants in the Flint River, and 10 people have died of Legionnaire’s Disease. Untold numbers of children may have suffered lead poisoning, which can cause irreversible brain damage.

 

This series of events is shocking. It is criminal. Governor Snyder should resign, as should all of his emergency managers. He should be charged with criminal neglect and tried for endangering the lives of the people of Flint by action and by negligence. An elected mayor would never had risked the health and safety of Flint’s citizens.

 

Of course, Darnell Earley is now in charge of the Detroit public schools. We should fear for the children.

 

And on Wednesday, Gov. Rick Snyder announced that the Flint area saw a spike in Legionnaires’ disease, a severe form of pneumonia, around the time the city switched its water source — a spike in illness that proved fatal for 10 people. Officials did not confirm the water switch had to do with the spike, but a drinking water expert has said there was very likely a connection.

 

The situation has drawn rebukes from Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has said there is “no excuse” for the crisis, and from Bernie Sanders, who had similar statements and said Flint residents “deserve more than an apology.”

 

In response to the intense criticism, Snyder said at a news conference Wednesday: “We’re taking every action within reason, and going beyond reason to address this,” he said. He also said, “This is something you wish that never happened, and let’s see that it never happens again in the state of Michigan.”

 

At the protest on Saturday, Moore also pinned the city’s water conditions on governmental neglect because of the city’s income level and racial makeup.

 

“They would never do this to West Bloomfield,” he said. “They would never do this to Ann Arbor. They would never do this to Farmington Hills. Let’s call this what it is. It’s not just a water crisis. It’s a racial crisis. It’s a poverty crisis… That’s what created this.”

 

 

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez interview Curt Guyette of the ACLU about the effects of the Emergency Manager law in Michigan. They note that the Emergency Manager who poisoned the water in Flint is now the Emergency Manager of the crumbling Detroit public schools.

 

 

Guyette, an investigative reporter explains how it works:

 

 

“Well, one of the things about the emergency manager law is that these managers were given extreme unchecked authority. And the thinking was, the reason for doing that is they were given the ability to come in, clean up the problems and get out. And so there was an 18-month time limit put on their terms. Except that this governor is exploiting what amounts to a loophole in that law. So what happens is that these emergency managers serve for 17 months and 29 days, and the day before their term expires, they resign. A new emergency manager is put in place, and the clock starts ticking all over again. And they just shuffle them from one place to another. So Earley goes from Flint to run DPS. And it just perpetuates this control. It can go on, really, forever, if they want it to, denying people of their democratically elected representation, because the school board, which has been fighting emergency management every step of the way, gets completely marginalized. They have zero authority whatsoever. And that goes to the heart of the problem of this law. It eliminates the democratic checks and balances that make a democracy functional.

 

“And the other thing is, what we’re seeing here is really the imposition of austerity. This is what austerity looks like. So you have all the problems in these schools that you just reported on, because they’re treating it like a managerial problem rather than a structural problem. I’ve used before the analogy: It’s like being the captain of the Titanic, and you hit an iceberg. It doesn’t matter who’s at the helm; the ship is going down unless you plug the hole. And they haven’t plugged the holes. They haven’t fixed the structural problems.”

 

 

Just received this email. If you open the link, you will see a photograph of Michael Moore leaning forward with a pair of handcuffs and a sign that says “Arrest Governor Snyder.” By the way, I posted last night that Governor Snyder had called out the National Guard to distribute water to the people of Flint. A Michigan blogger commented that as of today, only seven members of the National Guard are in Flint. Seven!

 

 
Have you heard the disastrous news out of Flint, Michigan — my hometown and the community at the forefront of my first major documentary film “Roger & Me”? If you haven’t, or even if you have, please take a moment to read this important message.

 

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, along with the premeditated actions of his administrators, has effectively poisoned the children of Flint by allowing lead and other toxins to enter their drinking water. The consequences are devastating now and will be for generations to come.

 

For this outrageous catastrophe, Gov. Snyder must resign — and go to jail.

 

To poison all the children in an historic American city is no small feat. Even international terrorist organizations haven’t figured out yet how to do something on a magnitude like this.

 

I want to be absolutely clear here: If we don’t attract national attention to what Gov. Snyder did, what happened in Flint could happen in all of our communities. That’s why I need your help to bring Rick Snyder to justice.

 

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder must resign — and be arrested — for his role in poisoning the water of children in Flint. Please join me and sign this important petition I am launching with my friends at Democracy for America.

 

Gov. Snyder and his staff and others knew that the water in the Flint River was poison — but he decided that taking over the city and “cutting costs” to “balance the budget” was more important than the people’s health (not to mention their democratic rights to elect their own leaders).

 

So he cut off the clean, fresh glacial lake water of Lake Huron that the citizens of Flint (including myself) had been drinking for decades and, instead, made them drink water from the industrial cesspool we call the Flint River — a body of “water” where toxins from a dozen General Motors and DuPont factories have been dumped for over a hundred years.

 

And then he decided to put a chemical in this water to “clean” it — which only ended up stripping the lead off of Flint’s aging water pipes, placing that lead in the water and sending it straight into people’s taps. State officials who tried to report this problem were ignored.

 

Gov. Snyder’s callous — and reckless — decision to do this has now, as revealed by the city’s top medical facility, caused “irreversible brain damage” in Flint’s children, not to mention other bodily damage to all of Flint’s adults.

 

The federal prosecutor in Flint, after many of us had called for months for action, finally opened up an investigation into the matter. Now we need Gov. Snyder to resign and face arrest, prosecution and conviction.

 

Rachel Maddow and other reporters have done great work drawing attention to this awful crisis. The facts are clear for the whole country to see. It’s time for justice. It’s time for Gov. Snyder to go.

 

Will you join me and DFA to fight for the children of Flint? Sign our petition to demand that Gov. Snyder resign — and be arrested — for his awful crime of poisoning an entire city’s drinking water.

 

Thank you for joining me and DFA in standing up for justice in Flint.

 

 

Michael Moore
Filmmaker and Flint native

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder activated the National Guard to help the people of Flint, whose water was poisoned by lead contamination from the Flint River. The governor’s emergency manager Darnell Earley made a decision to cut off the safe water supply from the Detroit water system to save money. The decision saved millions of dollars but poisoned many children. The National Guard is distributing bottles of water.

 

Lead poisoning can cause serious and lasting damage to children’s brains. This would not have been done to an affluent white community. It is an outrage and a disgrace.

 

A few days ago, one of our readers chastised me for making too big a deal of the Flint water crisis. Sorry, but I think that when government saves money by putting children’s lives at risk, that’s a big deal. Governor Snyder apologized. The man who made this decision should be held accountable. So should Governor Snyder.

 

 

The same emergency manager who cut off the safe water supply in Flint, Michigan, to save money and caused lead poisoning in many children is now the emergency manager of the Detroit Public Schools. Heckuva job, Governor Snyder.

Mitchell Robinson, who teaches music at Michigan State University, writes here about the madness of assessing teachers by “value-added” or growth measures, especially when they don’t teach the tested subjects.

 

State officials listen attentively to the unaccredited National Council on Teacher Quality, which was created by the conservative Thomas B.Fordham Foundation and kept alive by an emergency infusion of $5 million by then-Secretary of Education Rod Paige.

 

A state official explained why VAM was necessary:

 

Venessa Keesler, deputy superintendent of accountability services at MDE, said measuring student growth is a “challenging science,” but student growth percentiles represent at “powerful and good” way to tackle the topic. “When you don’t have a pre-and-post-test, this is a good way to understand how much a student has progressed,” she said. Under the new law, 25 percent of a teacher’s evaluation will be based on student growth through 2017-18. In 2018-19, the percentage will grow to 40 percent. State standardized tests, where possible, will be used to determine half that growth. In Michigan, state standardized tests – most of which focus on reading and math – touch a minority of teachers. One study estimated that 33 percent of teachers teach in grades and subjects covered by state standardized tests.

 

Robinson comments:

 

What Dr. Keesler doesn’t seem to understand is that the student growth percentiles she is referring to are nothing more than another name for Value Added Measures, or VAM–a statistical method for predicting students’ academic growth that has been completely and totally debunked, with statements from nearly every leading professional organization in education and statistics against their use in making high stakes decisions about teacher effectiveness (i.e., exactly what MDE is recommending they be used for in teachers’ evaluations). The science here is more than challenging–it’s deeply flawed, invalid and unreliable, and its usefulness in terms of determining teacher effectiveness is based largely on one, now suspect study conducted by a researcher who has been discredited for “masking evidence of bias” in his research agenda.

 

Dr. Keesler also glosses over the fact that these measures of student growth only apply to math and reading, subjects that account for less than a third of the classes being taught in the schools. If the idea of evaluating, for example, music and art teachers by using math and reading test scores doesn’t make any sense to you, there’s an (awful) explanation: “‘The idea is that all teachers weave elements of reading and writing into their curriculum. The approach fosters a sense of teamwork, shared goals and the feeling that “we’re all in this together,’ said Erich Harmsen, a member of GRPS’ human resources department who focuses on teacher evaluations.”

 

While I’m all for teamwork, this “explanation” is, to be polite, simply a load of hooey. If Mr. Harmsen truly believed in what I’ll call the “transitive property” of teaching and learning, then we would expect to see math and reading teachers be evaluated using the results of student learning in music and art. Because what’s good for the goose…right?

 

The truth is, as any teacher knows, for evaluation to be considered valid, the measures must be related to the actual content that is taught in the teacher’s class–you can’t just wave some magical “we’re all in this together” wand over the test scores that miraculously converts stuff taught in band class to wonderful, delicious math data. It just doesn’t work that way, and schools that persist in insisting that it does are now getting sued for their ignorance.

 

Why should teacher evaluation be standardized when there is so much messy human, social, and economic intervention in the scores that cannot be controlled or measured?

 

Robinson disputes the value of standardization:

 

Teachers work with children, and these children are not standardized.

 

Teachers work in schools, and these schools exist in communities that are not standardized.

 

And teachers work with other teachers, custodians, secretaries, administrators, school board members, and other adults–none of which are standardized.

 

So why should teacher evaluations systems in schools in communities as diverse as the Upper Peninsula and downtown Detroit evaluate their teachers using the same system? And why is the finding that “local assessments can vary among ‘teachers at the same grade, in the same school, teaching the same subjects'” a bad thing?

 

The thing that we should be valuing in these children, schools and communities is their diversity–the characteristics, talents and interests that make them gloriously different from one another. A school in Escanaba shouldn’t look like a school in Kalamazoo, and the curriculum in each school should be tailored to the community in which it resides. The only parties that benefit from “standardizing” education are the Michigan Department of Education and the testing companies that produce these tests, because standardizing makes their jobs easier. Standardizing teaching and learning doesn’t help students, teachers or schools, so why are we spending so much time and money in a futile attempt to make Pearson and ETS’s jobs easier?

 

 

Yesterday, I posted about the lead poisoning of many children in Flint, Michigan, that resulted from shutting off the supply of safe water and replacing it with water from the polluted Flint River. Readers might wonder what happened to the man who made that decision. This reader responded: He is now Emergency Manager of the Detroit Public Schools. He was appointed to this position last January by Governor Rick Snyder.

 

She wrote:

 

 

And what is the current job description for former Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley? He is governor-appointed Emergency Manger of Detroit Public Schools. One would think that even Rick Snyder would feel compelled to remove Earley from his position in Detroit after learning of the Flint water scandal, but one would be wrong… Earley has continued to wreak havoc on Detroit Public Schools, serving Detroit’s students the educational equivalent of contaminated water. I was surprised that Rachel Maddow didn’t include this information in her otherwise excellent piece on Flint.

Earlier today, I posted news that the people of Flint, Michigan, lost access to safe drinking water because its “emergency manager,” appointed by Governor Rick Snyder, cut the budget for clean water. Consequently many young children suffered lead poisoning. The state said it made a mistake.

 

But it it was worse than a mistake. State officials were informed and dismissed the complaints. They lied and tried to cover their tracks.

 

Arthur Delaney of Huffington Post writes:

 
“Michigan state officials insisted that the water supply in Flint was safe even though they knew an unusual number of children had suffered lead poisoning, according to a scientist who helped blow the whistle on Flint’s water crisis.”

 

“Through a public records request, Marc Edwards, a civil engineering professor at Virginia Tech, uncovered a July 2015 memo warning of elevated lead levels in Flint kids’ blood.

 

“An internal report from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services warned that lead poisoning rates “were higher than usual for children under age 16 living in the City of Flint during the months of July, August and September, 2014.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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