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It's Debate Night, Rochester

First up: a candidate forum with Rep. Tom McMillin and challenger Joanna VanRaaphorst. Next: the presidential debate on national television.

Although everyone across the country will be talking about the presidential debate tonight, there are local politics to watch, too.

The League of Women Voters Oakland Area is sponsoring a candidate forum for State Representative for the 45th District at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Rochester Hills City Hall. The forum will feature Rep. Tom McMillin and challenger Joanna VanRaaphorst.

Anyone can attend the public forum, which will also be broadcast live on Rochester Hills Television and online at rochesterhills.org. Members of the audience will have the entire hour to ask the candidates questions. 

McMillin is seeking his third term in office; he is a certified public accountant and a former Oakland County Commissioner. He lives in Rochester Hills.

VanRaaphorst, a Democrat, is seeking her first public office; she is a businesswoman and community volunteer. She lives in Oakland Township.

Later tonight, broadcast on national television, Republican nominee Mitt Romney and Democratic incumbent President Barack Obama will discuss domestic policy in the first presidential debate.

Jim Lehrer of PBS' NewsHour will moderate the first debate as the candidates focus on domestic policy. The debate will be divided into six time segments; Lehrer will open each segment with a question and each candidate will have two minutes to respond.

The debate will run from 9 to 10:30 p.m. and will be broadcast live on ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and C-SPAN, as well as cable news channels including CNN, MSNBC and more. The debate will be streamed live online here. Patch sites across Michigan will host a live discussion during the presidential debate; access that discussion here.

Rachael October 04, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Bruce: I am with you on McMillan, but the problem is that I can't vote for Joanne. She seems like a nice person, but she is too connected to the MEA. I have seen firsthand the influence they have in the schools and on school boards. They care more about how much money they can get out of the system than ideas that would improve education. I will have to vote for McMillan this time and hope we get a better alternative next term.
Brian Kirksey October 04, 2012 at 05:58 PM
Well that is an extremely narrow minded world view, there is also a large group of people that do not like large government, but are realistic that government is necessary and have accepted its role in our lives. What seems to be lost in the discussion is that many who rail against "big government" seem to be ok with big military spending, big wars, wasted legislative resources on religious issues...where is the outrage on these other issues? ...cut military spending by 75% and you just eliminated the deficit, re-payed the national debt, and solved medicare medicaid and social security. My outrage over Gov't has less to do with the unions or public sector employees, or poor people taking welfare as it is with war and the industrial-military complex.
Bruce Fealk October 04, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Rachel, the MEA advocates for teachers AND our children. What exactly is your problem with a union that fights for fair pay and good conditions for our children in school. My daughter is a teacher, and I can tell you she is dedicated, creative and has no interesting in gaming the system. In contast, Tom McMillin is a slave to the corporatists in ALEC and the religious right, a really bad combination in my mind. Cyber and charter school are just a way of redistributing taxpayer money to private corporations chasing profits and they have very little interest in educating our children. I'll take the MEA any day over ALEC and the American Family Association.
Amanda Kirksey October 04, 2012 at 06:45 PM
@Rachael, "They care more about how much money they can get out of the system than ideas that would improved education." So you would rather vote for someone who cuts our school funding, passes uncapped charter schools as well as passing a cyber school bill? Let's stop generalizing against the MEA (who yes, has faults!) and let's talk about Tom McMillin's track record. He is taking away money from OUR schools, my children's school district, so that other students from failing districts can have choices. He's trying to mandate School of Choice so that OTHER districts can come to OUR schools (which causes a whole slew of problems). Tom McMillin does not represent our area (we don't have any failing schools!), the RCS or it's people. I'm all for understanding that no candidate is perfect, but please don't let one supporter sway your vote. Tom McMillin is much more detrimental to education than Joanna VanRaaphorst.
Amanda Kirksey October 04, 2012 at 06:47 PM
I appreciate you and your willingness to look past the (R) or (D) behind the candidates' name. I hope more Republicans come out and vote for Joanna!
Rachael October 04, 2012 at 09:48 PM
Amanda: If they were both running in a primary in the same party, I would vote for Joanne in a second, even though I dont agree with her on everything. She seems like a decent person. I surely dont agree with him. I think he is an awful representative. I just believe that Michigan is actually begining to attract people and business for the first time in decades. This election will likely dicate whether we stay on that path or fall back to being the old Michigan. Like it or not, our prior reputation was one that drove businesses out of our state. If voters pass any number of those terrible ballot proposals or if the Michigan House flips back to the Democrats, any gains will likely be lost. I actually believe that a divided government is better. It forces people to compromise. But we are in a very unusual period where change needs to happen quickly. I guess I am not voting for McMillan or against Joanne. I am voting to change this state and make us competitive, which wont happen with the union backed democrats running Lansing.
Dan Welch October 04, 2012 at 10:54 PM
So you are ok with supporting a guy who supports hate group AFA? That will bring talent to this state. Teachers unions keep people from investing in the state? I don't see the logic.
Dan Welch October 04, 2012 at 11:00 PM
If McMillin gets Schools of choice through, you won't like what happens to your property value. Real estate values are linked to quality of public schools. What the good talent walk away when the floodgates open. By the way, I'm not a democrat.
Rachael October 04, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Dan: I hear you...I am not defending McMillan. I just don't think he has any influence in his own party. So I am not worried about his wacky views.
Jeanne October 05, 2012 at 01:51 AM
So, let me get this straight ... you are supporting someone to represent you who you say is without influence and holds wacky views, and who others call an unliked, awful, liar (among other things) just because he has an R, not a D next to his name?? Really?? Joanna is an honest, hard-working, fair-minded moderate who will do the best thing for Rochester because she loves her city. Its time to think outside the political box.
Joshua Raymond October 05, 2012 at 02:45 AM
Amanda, schools of choice is a very tricky subject. In many ways, I consider it a very liberal position. It is the ultimate redistribution of wealth - intellectual wealth. In this case, our district is the 1% and the 99% want to share in our wealth. However, it is true that someone who supports schools of choice doesn't appear to be voting with the people of this district who are very much against it. But does our district support charter schools and cyber schools? Most likely. I believe it is 17% of our school-aged children are not in RCS. Given that we are a fairly conservative area and even some Democrats, such as President Obama, are supporting charter schools, the majority in our district probably support them. We were lucky to be able to use in-district schools of choice to change to a school that was a better fit for our children. However, many don't have that option. And if they are in a district that scores in the bottom percentiles, what choices do we give them if we exclude schools of choice and charter schools? Most can't afford private schools and homeschooling may not be an option for single parents or families where both parents must work. I can't in good conscience tell them they need to stay in their failing schools or that I don't care about them because they aren't in our district. With your strong background in education, I sincerely would like to hear your suggestions for families in districts that have failing schools.
Brian Kirksey October 05, 2012 at 11:52 AM
Joshua: I don't disagree that kids should not be locked in failing schools, my issue with McMillin in regards to this issue is a bit more economic. First, you cannot fairly look at public schools while stripping them of their funding with adding community colleges to the school aid fund distribution and raiding the fund consistently year after year. Then to pile on with No Child Left Behind compliance costs...of course schools are failing you are bleeding them dry. I would also fail if you took away 40% of my income and still expected me to be able to pay groceries and my mortgage...he is setting them up to fail. Second, to rush in with competition that continues to pull from that same State Aid Fund, we are saying we know they are struggling so in order to fix the problem we are going to allow people to pull more money out of the institution. Not a limited number of competitors, an unlimited number of competitors.
Brian Kirksey October 05, 2012 at 12:01 PM
Third, by flooding the market with competition (uncapping) and removing nearly every barrier to entry, you have subjected kids who arguably have been disenfranchised by a bad school and subjected them to a new Grand Experiment, of which they are the guinea pigs. With better planning and limits to the number of schools that can enter the market, you allow better quality schools to go into places that need them the most, similar to skilled nursing facilities and MRI offices in which a certificate of need has to be established prior to getting approval. This would allow for better schools in areas that need them the best, not just flooding the market and waiting to see which ones succeed and which ones fail. Whats the impact on those children who do not pick the right school? Fourth, the charter school and cyber schools are given the entire amount of per pupil funding (i.e. voucher). However, a portion of that per pupil funding is also a portion of tax dollars allocated to maintenance of school buildings, land, and infrastructure. This is an investment the community has made, and these are the costs of maintaining this investment. We all share in the gains of the investment with our home values, yet there are people who will pull their entire contribution to this investment outside of their community or to a private organization...yet still be able to gain in the investment, without contributing.
Brian Kirksey October 05, 2012 at 12:07 PM
My personal belief is the per pupil funding should be reduced by the amount to pay for this investment, or the ability to use the school district should be removed for that home until the investment is paid back. Reducing the amount of real estate gains someone could gather when they decide to not fund the public investment. Cyber schools in particular that do not have brick and mortar maintenance costs particularly this should apply to. Last, the idea that Charter/Cyber Schools are public and not for profit is a funny twist on reality. The ones that are not for profit often use for profit management companies, that are generally the same individuals that make up the entity of the non-profit school. So there are restrictions that a school cannot make a profit, so instead the profit is passed through the management company...unless the not for profit model is extended to management companies all that is happening is a shell game.
Bruce Fealk October 05, 2012 at 12:14 PM
Rachel, the problem is there are other wacky Republicans and other wacky legislation gets passed when the really wacky, like McMillin, join together with the less wacky Republicans. Not only that, McMillin is an embarrassment to Rochester Hills, just like Janice Daniels is to Troy. He reflects badly on our entire city.
Bruce Fealk October 05, 2012 at 12:19 PM
More on charters: I learned yesterday from a Michigan State school board member what the charters often do is the attract as many students as they can before the third Friday, when student counts are done for funding purposes. Once the count is done for the semester, the school can keep the funding for the entire semester, even if the student leaves. And this is just what happens. The charter, after the third Friday, when student count is done, then says the student is not suitable for the school and sends them back to the public school, but the money for that student doesn't follow the student, so the public school has a new student, with no money attached to the student to fund the local public school. This is what happens when you have for-profit schools. They want to maximize profit, not learning. Also, by getting rid of a student who may not be up to grade level, they keep the best students in the charter and leave the students with less ability in the public schools, and making it more likely to bring down the school's test scores, making it more likely that school will be labeled as failing and making the teachers look less capable. It's a vicious cycle, that I'm sure is well known by charter school advocates like Mr. McMillin.
Richard Happening October 05, 2012 at 12:48 PM
The MEA is as evil as McMillan's views on the LGBT community. (both SO wrong) The best thing is that after McMillan wins again, I will get to read all the whining on RP posts. It's why they invented the IPad!! Thanks. Bruce is a classic. Keep it up!
Bruce Fealk October 05, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Richard, please explain how the MEA is evil. Even Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower, both respected Republicans, although by today's standards neither would be allowed in the Republican party, believed in collective bargaining.
Brian Kirksey October 05, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Bruce quit feeding the trolls...anyone who lacks the fortitude to put their real name out there isn't worth a debate.
Rachael October 05, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Bruce: Just look at McMillans record. They don't support him in Lansing...He never passes anything. I realize its like having an empty suit representing our district, but I will take that over the the risk of allowing the Democrats (sorry) more power in the house. Joanne should take it as a compliment.
Joshua Raymond October 05, 2012 at 01:32 PM
Bruce, can you provide a newspaper article on this? I would be very interested in reading more about it.
Richard Happening October 05, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Thanks Brian. I don't like debating. I placed my post in a field that said "Leave a comment", not "Engage in a debate". Btw, who cares about Eisenhower or Reagan? I am not a fan of either.
Bloomfield Doc October 05, 2012 at 01:51 PM
I know Joanna very well. She spends money wisely and can stretch a dollar. Not exactly a liberal with the pocket book. Go Joanna!
Kristin Bull (Editor) October 05, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Here is the first of several reports related to the candidate forum this week: http://patch.com/A-yw3l
Rachael October 05, 2012 at 01:58 PM
I don't doubt you on that. The problem is that is not how things work in the legislature. She would be an incoming new legislator and would be expected to vote the party line. All you have to do is to look at the voting records in the House the last two years. Which means you are votng for the Democratic agenda when you vote for Joanne. Thats great if that is what you believe in. The unfortunate fact is that there are alot of republcans and indepemdents (myself included) who would love to vote for Joanne over McMillan, but the reality is that by doing so, you are supporting the union backed Democratic agenda. I simply can;t do that. People just need to be aware of that reality when they vote.
Joshua Raymond October 05, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Brian, thanks for the extensive response. One further question for you is what should be done to ensure each child receives the education they need? I appreciate your objections to charter and cyber schools, but we are still in need of a solution. The funding of education is a difficult issue. While I would like to not have cuts in funding for schools, I would also like to not have cuts in funding for many other programs that the government provides that people rely on. With a recession, the government simply did not have the same amount of money to spend and decreases had to be made. One thing that made it more painful was that instead of the decrease being gradual, the cuts by Gov Snyder's budget happened at the same time that the federal government stopped filling the holes that Gov Granholm's budget had created. The school district had been warned that this was one time money and the former Asst. Superintendent for Finance even warned about the financial issues coming, but little was done. It should also be noted that most of Gov Snyder's cuts were filled by Best Practice money which the district easily met. Another thing that made it more painful was rising costs. Much of this was in rising health care costs and teacher pension payments. These two factors caused much more pain to the district than students leaving for charter or cyber schools. (continued)
Joshua Raymond October 05, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Some districts are facing losing many students to charter schools, but most of these are schools that have been failing to educate students for decades. Even when money was flush and there was no NCLB or charters, they weren't adequate. Nothing was fixing these schools and students were trapped. This was the genesis of charter schools. They provided an alternative. Not only does that help the students, but better educated workers help all of us. For a while, the number and locations of charter schools were limited. Some charter schools had enormous waiting lists. Other areas wanted charter schools, but were not allowed to have them. The change in charter school caps also was accompanied by a change in philosophy. No longer were charter schools just an escape hatch for failing schools, but also a way to provide diversity in education. Some options would include charters focused around fine arts, STEM, ethnocentric, life skills, dropout recovery, college prep, or International Baccalaureate. I've mentioned to the administration and various members of the BOE that we have an opportunity in RCS to offer these types of schools. I even know of a few principals that would be very interested in running a magnet-style school. Unfortunately, I have yet to hear of even any discussion happening about magnet schools. Why should we ban charters from providing what public school districts refuse to? I think individual families should have those choices. (continued)
Joshua Raymond October 05, 2012 at 03:14 PM
Should there be reasonable limits on charter schools? I don't think most people have an issue with that, even vigorous free market charter school supporters. If the MEA were approaching charter schools similar to how the Obama administration is, there probably would be some more regulations. Unfortunately, I think such strong rhetoric against charters has cost the MEA their seat at the discussion table. What would be regulations that would be acceptable? Well, all regulations that apply to charter would have to apply to public too. Some ideas are below. * Dumping of students after count day, as claimed by Bruce, would get a charter operator banned. Public schools that inflate student counts through pizza parties, but don't try hard to keep those students in school on other days would also be banned. * Charters that are low-performing for the population demographic would be closed or have other measure taken. Public schools that are low-performing for the population demographic would face the same consequences. * Charter and public schools would face a cap on total admin costs. The cap should be the same amount. See http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/charterschoice/2012/05/another_look_at_administrative_bureaucracy_at_charters_traditional_public_schools.html for an interesting comparison between public and charter school admin costs. I would not support a need-based requirement as even highly-ranked public schools don't meet the needs of every student. ...
Joshua Raymond October 05, 2012 at 03:45 PM
I guess I don't understand your point regarding building expenses. Charter schools need buildings too, so why shouldn't that be funded for them? I would think that a school building, public or charter, would revert to the public should it be closed and not be owned by a private company unless it were just rented. Also, I believe public schools have ways of funding real estate purchases not open to charters. Cyber schools are a bit trickier. They won't have the same real estate expenses and perhaps not the same teacher expenses. They will have some other expenses, such as computers and software. I do believe that cyber schools should have their per pupil funding tied to expenses so that they cannot be just a money pot. Their funding should also be capped at public school per pupil grants. However, if a cyber school can provide a better or more extensive education for that amount, that should be allowable rather than reducing funding to these schools. One cyber school in operation is the Virtual Learning Academy operated by the local ISDs. My understanding is that this is aimed at homeschoolers and not at students currently attending public schools. Most people prefer the setting of a brick and mortar school, but for those who do not, cyber schools are a way to help ensure that they receive a standard curriculum. (continued)
Joshua Raymond October 05, 2012 at 04:03 PM
For me, the focus is always on the individual student. Having children whose needs weren't being met in their public school, I understand that need for charter schools in addition to the students who are just trying to get an education at failing public schools. Unfortunately, I know so many families that are homeschooling because they were unable to get the support they needed in their public schools. Their children also deserve an education paid for by the state. If traditional public schools are unable or unwilling to meet their needs, charters can be a great option. I believe in the phrase "No Child Left Behind", but that means something to me so different than what it does to our government. To me it means an education directed at the needs of each child, moving each child forward. If this requires charter schools, so be it. One may wonder how I can support charter schools so strongly, but still also be a strong supporter of public schools, even considering running for School Board. To me, the answer is easy. I would work to improve RCS's commitment to every child and opportunities for every child so that families would always want to choose RCS over a charter school. We aren't there yet, so this improvement would be my goal.

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