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McMillin, VanRaaphorst: On Unions, Campaign Donors, Charter Schools

First in a series of reports: The candidates for the 45th District House seat were asked about union support during a recent candidate forum.

Republican State Rep. Tom McMillin and Democratic challenger Joanna VanRaaphorst, candidates for the 45th District House seat, debated local issues at a candidate forum this week. 

In a series of stories starting today, we'll bring you excerpts of that forum, organized by the League of Women Voters. The forum can be watched in its entirety here on the Rochester Hills website

McMillin of Rochester Hills, is seeking his third term as state representative. VanRaaphorst, of Oakland Township, is seeking her first elected office. The 45th District includes Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township.

Here's a look at the candidates' answers to an audience member's question at the forum.

Question: A special interest group recently endorsed you (VanRaaphorst) and asked on a questionnaire if you would help them organize. You said yes. Is it appropriate for local residents to pay you to be state representative as well as organizing union locals?

VanRaaphorst: We have unions in Rochester and I'm very proud that I've been endorsed by who I've been endorsed by. If you're talking about the teachers, the people who teach our children here in Rochester belong to a union. My twin sister who is a teacher belongs to a union. Of course I would support them; that is the entity that supports the teachers that run our public schools — to not work with them I think would be ridiculous. I proudly say that I'm for unions. Maybe that's why I'm a moderate democrat because that's one of my core beliefs.

McMillin: As your state representative, if I go back I will not be using my time for union-organizing or community-organizing. I'll focus on turning the state around like we have been.

VanRaaphorst: Tom, you have been financed by for-profit charter schools; we don't have a for-profit charter schools here. You've been financed by untested for-profit cyber schools and we don't have those here. If you're going to talk about who you're supporting, let's talk about who is financing our campaign. You're into transparency and I think that's terrific. If you want transparency I have a list of who's donated to my campaign. In 2010 you had eight local people donate from Rochester and Rochester Hills and Oakland Township; they had deep pockets but it was eight people. As of today, I have about 212 local people. I think that is key to our election: if you want to support and be an advocate for your local community, which means your public schools, Crittenton, Oakland University and the small businesses here and the community leaders, you need to be supported by them. 

McMillin: I am not going to make apologies for businesses that are not within the district that want to contribute to me, small businesses outside the district that appreciate us turning around the state and my CPA background. Yes, some folks that want choice and want to help kids make sure that we get a good education are appreciative of what we've done. For decades we have let these kids go to failing schools and not given them an option. I'm proud that I was spearheading the effort and really helping the effort to make sure we gave options to parents who were in failing districts.

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For complete coverage of the Primary Election, visit our Election 2012 page on Patch. 


Mike Reno November 03, 2012 at 08:12 PM
Kristen, you are so myopic on your assessment of what I believe, or why I spend time attempting to debate these issues. I have not generalized anyone's intentions. I've probably written 150 articles, and been interviewed dozens of times. I'd wager that maybe 10% of them are related to union issues. Most of them are related to trying to raise the standards of education, and trying to make data-based arguments about how we might be falling short. You only seem to hear the parts you want to hear.
Mike Reno November 03, 2012 at 08:24 PM
And by the way... the USPS has not received any taxpayer funds for maybe 30 years, with a few minor exceptions. (Loans, yes. Funding, no.) If we are to use your example, then the US Mail would be 100% taxpayer funded (ie. free stamps), and UPS/FedEx would be private. In that case... give me my tax allocation of the US Mail, and allow me to apply it to FedEx/UPS, which is the far superior service. At the present time, I can "opt-out" of the the US Mail system, and it costs me nothing. With public education, I can also "opt-out", but I am still paying for it. In the end, I'm not quite sure what point you are making? That yes, public education is not the best for our kids, but we should accept it for the greater good of all? I'm not trying to put words in your mouth... It sorta sounds like you admit that publics cannot compare to private sector options... but rather than let parents have options to upgrade, they should stay where they are for the greater good?
Brian Kirksey November 03, 2012 at 09:54 PM
Mike Two points, USPS receives $96 MM a year from the Federal Govt it's called the Postal Service Fund. But don't let facts get in your way of your distorted argument. Two, "bleed them dry" pubs are not judged by their intentions, but rather their actions. Raiding of the School Aid fund every year, allowing community schools to access the fund, allowing cyber and charter schools to it. It seems this process started right after voters decided against vouchers...so if its not a vendetta, why is it every post you make against supporting schools you take a swipe at the MEA. Google your name and Alex Freeman, and search MEA. You'll see nearly a 100 posts against schools and the MEA in the next sentence
Joshua Raymond November 04, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Just so everyone knows what the Postal Service Fund is, from About.com: "The USPS does get some taxpayer support. Around $96 million is budgeted annually by Congress for the "Postal Service Fund." These funds are used to compensate USPS for postage-free mailing for all legally blind persons and for mail-in election ballots sent from US citizens living overseas. A portion of the funds also pays USPS for providing address information to state and local child support enforcement agencies." With USPS's budget of just over $70 billion, this is about 0.14% of their budget. Having read Mike's blog and Detroit News articles, he addresses many educational issues. Before Patch was around, I contacted him because I found his name when Googling for gifted education supporters in Rochester. At that time, he was the only one whose name popped up. It is quite possible to be an education supporter and take issue with the MEA or believe that great education can be found in more than just public schools.
Mike Reno November 04, 2012 at 02:41 AM
Thanks joshua for better defining the "minor exceptions" I was referred to. I don't know why I have a tendency to think people will understand the broader issue, when they always get hung up on some insignificant nit. And while I flattered that Brian is googling me... 100 posts are probably here on Patch, where I am oftentimes responding to union references. Having said that, I do believe that the MEA might be one of the largest problems in education today. The simple solution is allow people to take their tax dollars and move to other more parent-friendly, accountable options, or choose to be part of a union shop. I don't understand why Public Ed Inc has such little confidence in their own product that they fear people will leave in droves if given the option. As far as spending... I support spending our education dollars on Michigan children, who attend charters and cyber schools. I don't see the need to limit them to MEA shops. Is this about kids or adults? And the reference to "raiding" for community colleges... that false meme has be debunked a hundred times. It is written in the constitution and the law. I'm not going to dig up the link again, because it won't matter to you. But the fact is that it is allowed by law. And finally, my prodigious postings here should serve as evidence enough that I post under my own name. I presume you, by your reference to Freeman, are implying that I also post under pseudonames, which I do not.

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