Yesterday evening, after work, one thing led to another and I found myself locked in the basement of Arbor Brewing along with with Mark Schauer, the Democratic candidate for Governor of Michigan. Fortunately, I had a camera with me, and captured a good deal of our exchange on the subjects of K-12 education and the minimum wage, which you can watch below.
Speaking of the minimum wage, this conversation between myself and Schauer transpired just a few hours after Republicans in the Michigan Senate passed a minimum wage hike to $9.20 an hour by 2017. It’s probably also worth noting that this Republican repurposing of legislation originally proposed by Democrats like Mark Schauer was pushed through less than two days after those individuals behind the Raise Michigan initiative announced they’d collected the 250,000 signatures needed to get the $10.10 minimum wage on the November ballot. And, no, I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Senate Republicans, I think it’s pretty clear, rushed through this minimum wage legislation yesterday, not because they developed a sudden concern for our most vulnerable workers, but because they wanted to keep the minimum wage off the ballot, as they knew it would not only pass, but drive the progressive base to the polls, where they’d vote Republicans like Rick Snyder out of office.
Here, with all of that said, is video of my very quick interview with Mark Schauer, followed by the transcript.
MAYNARD: Privatization in education is a huge concern for a number of us in the state. Your dad was a science teacher, and I know it’s something close to your heart. Michigan, I believe, is the number one state in the country relative to for-profit charters. How (as Governor) would you stop that?
SCHAUER: There are a number of ways. Number one, we have to remove the profit motive from education in Michigan, and put the “public” back in education. 80% of charter schools in Michigan are run by for-profit companies. And that’s not even counting these virtual schools, or cyber schools, that were enacted into law by Governor Snyder. They see kids with dollar signs on their foreheads. I’ll give you an interesting case in point. Muskegon Heights schools were in financial distress. So Governor Snyder sent in an emergency manager. And the emergency manager chose a for-profit charter school company to run the entire district. It was a company called Mosaic. Well, recently, Mosaic ended their contract. Three years early. And the emergency manager said, Mosaic was doing a good job academically… I can’t really speak to that part… but, he said, this did not fit their financial model. They could not make a profit, he said. So they quit. The public shool district did not have an option of quitting. Elected school boards don’t have that option.
They key is committing to our public school system, to all of our neighborhood schools. We need to make sure they have the resources to be successful. I’m not against charter schools per se. There are a lot of excellent examples of charter schools. But most of them are redundant. They’re not especially innovative. They’re not especially effective. Some of the lowest performing schools are charter schools run by for-profits. So we need to take the profit motive out.
When I’m Governor, if it’s not done before, we’ll conduct a study and see what it actually costs to educate our kids. Most charter schools are K-6, or K-8. Most are not K-12. It’s cheaper to provide an elementary school education. (And these charters) often don’t provide transportation. So we’ll determine what it costs for them to actually provide that education, and, instead of getting that seven-thousand dollars and change per student that our public schools get, they’ll get what it actually costs (to provide what they provide). I think that will weed out a lot of these for-profit companies. And that will allow us to redirect those resources back to our public schools.
MAYNARD: Do people vote on education? I mean, people vote on the economy, but do they vote on education. I know it’s your central message, but do people care?
SCHAUER: Education is my number one priority. I learned this firsthand… I’m a product of public education… the key to a good job is a good education. I mean (not just) from a moral standpoint, but from a purely economic standpoint (it makes sense to invest in education). I used to run Headstart, and we knew the dollar return on investment on quality, developmental preschool, and that’s the same for quality education through high school completion. We all pay as a society when young people aren’t getting a good education.
What I hear on the campaign trail all over the state… The two items that make people the angriest about Rick Snyder as Governor… One is the $1 billion cut to public education. No matter how had he tries to spin it, people realize that school districts now have about $500 less per pupil in the classroom. And kids are in more crowded classrooms (as a result). My running mate, Lisa Brown, from Oakland County, talks about her own experience. She sees her younger children getting an inferior education with fewer resources in more crowded classrooms. Programs just don’t exist anymore that were there when her older children were in school. So, yes, it is a potent issue. People understand that for Michigan to win in this global competition for jobs, we need to have the best educated workforce.
The second issue that people are most passionate about is Rick SNyder’s retirement tax. Retirees are paying, one thousand, two thousand, three thousand more dollars a year in taxes that would otherwise be going into the economy to help create jobs in Michigan.
MAYNARD: Your campaign has been very smart in certain ways. By not having a primary opponent, you’re saving a lot of money, and you’re not being distracted by these petty fights within the Democratic party. Brilliant. Another thing that could help you is the minimum wage. If we can get the minimum wage on the ballot in November, it would drive Democrats to the polls, which is absolutely critical, given that this is a non-Presidential election year. What are our chances of getting it on the ballot? I know that there were some developments today.
SCHAUER: Well, a couple of things. The fact that I didn’t have a primary challenger speaks to a couple of things. The Democratic party is very unified and disciplined going into the 2014 election. We had the lowest base Democratic turnout in 2010 than in any election since 1948, when Harry Truman was President. And you see what happened. We got Rick Snyder as Governor, and Republicans controlling every aspect of state government. And we’ve seen what’s happened as a result. So there’s real unity and a focus on winning this election. I stepped forward to run because I could not abide by the attacks on public education, the tax increases on retirees, families and low-wage earners, cuts in environmental protections, attacks on working people, women, and the gay and lesbian community. So I stepped forward to run almost a year ago. And I was able to establish myself as a consensus candidate partly because Democratic values, but also because of my effectiveness as a policy maker over the years, and the fact that I know how to win tough elections. I beat two out-of-touch Republican incumbents in really tough districts. I filed my petitions a month ago, I’m on the ballot, I’ve got no Democratic challengers, and my running mate, Lisa Brown, already. So we are ready to win.
The minimum wage is a very important priority the me. I’ve supported raising the minimum wage since I ran an anti-poverty agency in the ’80s and early ’90s, early in my career. And I introduced my own proposal last November to raise the minimum wage to $9.25 an hour, indexed to inflation, and give a million low-wage earners in Michigan a raise. Rick Snyder said that the minimum wage was not a significant issue, in response to my proposal. At the same time, he gave his top investment offices 80 and 90% pay raises. We see what his priorities are. There’s a ballot campaign to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. I signed the petition. I think that’s a proposal that would do great things for families and our economy. The legislature… We’ll see what happens… I’ve seen a lot of games in my time. I was in the legislature twelve years. Today the Senate did something important, and significant, and I commend them for that. They adopted essentially what was my proposal. $9.20 an hour, indexed to inflation, and lift tipped workers as well. It’s a good step. To me, what’s more important than politics is doing what’s right. And giving a million people a long overdo raise and tying that minimum wage to inflation, so that it will increase as the cost of goods goes up, is a good thing.
MAYNARD: But are they doing that to get it off the ballot, so that it won’t drive Democrats to the polls to vote for you?
SCHAUER: Well, I want to be clear. I’m going to beat Rick Snyder whether or not the minimum wage ballot proposal is before voters or not. I want to be clear about that. And I think those low-wage earners are going to know, whether it’s on the ballot or not, which party, and which candidate, is a fighter for fair wages for everyone… So I’m not worried whether it gets on the ballot. I just want to see people who need a raise, get a raise.