In Detroit, a city that has faced decline now for several decades, Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb has issued a layoff notice to all 5,466 public school teachers.
Bobb has said he will take advantage of the new Financial Martial Law known as Public Act 4 to “unilaterally modify” the district’s collective bargaining agreement with the Federation of Teachers. According to Reuters:
Under a law known as Public Act 4, passed by the Michigan legislature and signed by the state’s new Republican governor in March, emergency managers like Bobb have sweeping powers. They can tear up existing union contracts, and even fire some elected officials, if they believe it will help solve a financial emergency.
"I fully intend to use the authority that was granted under Public Act 4," Bobb said in the statement.
Under Public Act 4 Emergency Managers have sweeping, almost dictatorial power to modify contracts, fire officials, and disregard public input.
So who is Robert Bobb?
It turns out, he’s a recent graduate of the Broad Foundation’s Superintendent Academy. The Broad Foundation, along with the Kellogg Foundation, pays Bobb $145,000 a year on top of his $280,000 government salary. For those of you not familiar with Broad, it is one of the leading foundations promoting school choice and privatization across the country. One might almost think that paying a public official hundreds of thousands of dollars a year might amount to nothing short of bribery, especially given the very specific agenda of a foundation like the Broad Foundation.
Now, Bobb is proposing to create charter schools for 16,000 students from 41 schools slated for closure. He argues that this will save millions of dollars. I have to wonder, however, at the conflict of interest....
This is nothing short of a coordinated effort between the billionaire foundations pushing school reform and Tea Party conservatives intent on slashing benefits and ending collective bargaining rights. Public schools are under assault by the forces of privatization, and public school teachers face benefit and salary cuts while the very rich are promised tax cuts. Similar efforts are underway in Florida and Wisconsin.