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"One rogue school board member"

This is how a legislator described a close colleague and dear friend of mine: "one rogue school board member." The school board member in question is Elizabeth Welch Lykins, trustee of the East Grand Rapids Public Schools, committed proponent of strong public education, and member of the MIPFS board of directors. Though she was not singled out by name, every person knew who was being described.

My friend says she will wear the title proudly, though in reality it is hardly true at all. Far from being a "rogue," Ms. Lykins has spent years keeping parents informed and involved in education policy issues through the EGRPS PTO Legislative Committee, carrying on work started by parents there some 20 years ago. Her views are broadly in line with those of her fellow school board members and most members of the local parent community. In fact, she and fellow parent activist Christie Ramsey of Rockford schools received an award just last year for their tireless work on behalf of public education, presented to them by the regional association of school administrators.

"One rogue school board member." The phrase itself is designed to belittle and marginalize. But it fails in that attempt, because it is so disconnected from the truth.

Some lawmakers, who like to hammer public schools, go back to their districts and say it doesn't apply to their local schools, which are surely wonderful or at least working hard. The draconian measures are only designed for "them," not for folks like us.

Privately, they're less charitable: "just toss them out and let the charters and parochial schools take over," one state Senator was heard to say.

But the wind is changing. All over Michigan, parents and other citizens are starting to see how decisions in Lansing are hurting everybody's schools, and the bland reassurances aren't working any more. Budget cuts are not removing "fat"; we are into muscle and bone. Programs are being cut, class sizes are growing, and all the while educators are being told to do more and more with less and less.

Obscure foundations and secret "skunk works" groups made plans for 'bargain' schools and systems that would replace local schools - the anchor of many a community - with the equivalent of a drive-through menu. Suddenly, people from around Michigan realized that the current leadership in Lansing really was out to get their local schools.

It is time for all of us, from all different kinds of communities in all parts of our state, to stand up and say "No More!" Many of you have already started to do this - we need to reach out to our friends and neighbors and ask them to help us defend and strengthen our local, community-governed public schools. We need to make it clear that these radical and ideological measures to cut the heart out of our communities have no place in Michigan. We need to do as those who came before us did and honor our commitment to the future - of our children, and of our communities.

My friend is not "one rogue school board member." She is a parent, she is a concerned citizen, and she is not alone. People across the state of Michigan stand with her.

We're not just a few cranks with computers.

And we're not in it for the money, and we're not against change.

Donate to MIPFSWe are parents and citizens who care about quality public education - for our own children and everybody's children. We care about our communities, and we know that strong schools - answerable to the community - help make our home towns and cities good places to live. [contribute button] We want to invest in a good future for everyone, because that helps secure a great future for our families.

But the folks who want to dismantle public education, who heap scorn on community-governed public schools, simply cannot accept that we exist. They try to write us off as a handful of trouble-makers, and if that doesn't work they say we must be bankrolled by special interests. But it's getting harder and harder for them to stick their fingers in their ears and pretend we aren't speaking for people across the state of Michigan.

Thank you for reading this article, because it really gets at the issue of why we do this. Then, please consider following the link at right and making a contribution to Michigan Parents for Schools, so that we can keep doing this important work. We're parents working on behalf of all of us, and we need the support of concerned and generous people like you.

Best regards,
Steve Norton, executive director

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