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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. 


Joshua Raymond October 08, 2012 at 02:25 AM
Brian, there are plenty of people who have opposed any support for charter schools, so I was referencing that more than the new law. The new law may affect people in district 45. RCS won't suffer significantly, but it will allow those who want different opportunities to receive them. The uncapping came about because charter schools have enormous wait lists. We don't tell small hamburger restaurants that they can't open because there are already too many taking customers from McDonald's. America is great because we have so many choices. Tell Amanda I said hi. Maybe I'll see one of you tomorrow. (School board, not Paul Ryan rally.)
Joshua Raymond October 08, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Brian, what are your thoughts on the Education Achievement Authority?
Christopher October 08, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Everyone, I'd like to introduce you to Bruce. Bruce is paid to make a comment under every story and include reference to either ALEC or the Koch Brothers.
Christopher October 08, 2012 at 04:24 PM
The problem with using this quote to imply that Republicans should be pro-union is that most of us (R's, I am one) believe that the unions added value and were important...75 years ago. A safe work place and a fair wage should be the norm, but not the rediculousness that exists in current union contracts. $60 an hour and 60 vacation days for a manual labor job just seems a little much. And, I don't think Reagan was referring to public sector unions.
Bruce Fealk October 08, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Christopher, I don't know where you get your information, but what you are saying is completely incorrect. I have never received any payment for comment on any blog.
Janet October 08, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Doug, let's put a crazy guy back in office to represent this community? Doesn't make sense. I have served with Joanna in numerous charities. She is good with money, honest and not by any means a McNamara Democrat. Comparing her to Granholm is a reach. McMillin is tarnishing our town. Another 2 years of this man will hurt this area. Ask him about how he has helped Crittenton hospital lately.
Christopher October 09, 2012 at 01:19 PM
The problem with this argument is that it's just not true. Public sector wages were lower than private sector wages in the 40's and 50's, they aren't now and haven't been for years. And the cost burden of the pension and retiree healthcare makes even those wages from the 40's and 50's higher than the private sector. It's not envy, it's the realization that we can get someone else to do a mediocre job for less money.
Christopher October 09, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Doesn't this show a more sophisticated understanding of the political/legislative process? It's not "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" anymore. When Obama, Pelosi and Reed put the pressure on the D's to fall in line and vote for Obamacare, it didn't matter what kind of a person each of them was, they were D's and if they wanted any any of their bills to get to the floor, any money for re-election from the party they needed to fall in line. So I don't care if McMillin wears a tin foil hat and VanRaaphorst is the nicest woman on Earth, she's gonna vote big government, high taxes, high regulations, anti-business and that's not what I want.
Lisa November 01, 2012 at 09:29 PM
We have some really good teachers and some really poor teachers/adminstrators! Focus schools are costing us big because of the acheivement gap! The school board has kicked the can down the road or thrown money at the problem without a change in the problem! I'm infavor of local control. But when school boards refuse to do the right thing laws are developed!
Kristen Famiano November 02, 2012 at 12:04 AM
I am still asking for data that proves cyber schools and charter schools perform better. I just don't think you'll find it except for an isolated school here and there. When you look at achievement, socioeconomic factors are huge. When you look at the elementary schools with the polarized performance on standardized tests, these schools are typically your title I schools. Students taking seat time waivers are typically failing students who have a hard time with the traditional school setting....and they do worse at home without any support. I am all for middle college/early college experiences and IA opportunities. This makes sense. There should be some alternative opportunities created, but public education is for all students. I am opposed to circumventing the system to meet the needs of helicopter parents and ex board members. This does not help kids. I am an MEA member who wants fair wages and benefits. This doesn't mean I put myself before kids. I would argue the opposite. When class sizes are increasing, counselors are being cut, yet schools are socking away money in fund equity beyond the recommended amount....this hurts kids. There are districts out there doing this.
Kristen Famiano November 02, 2012 at 12:11 AM
Furthermore....when I go to work at a public school....I am there for ALL kids. I don't tell LGBT students that get bullied that the other people have a right to their opinion and your sexual orientation is your choice. Oh...and I have to protect boy scouts. I don't go to the STATIC Christian after school club and tell the students I think you're being discriminated against with the school's bullying policy. I don't tell students with Autism....I know your medical needs are not being covered, causing your parents to pay tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket, and I will not support a mandate that would help.It's just not fair. If this sounds ludicrous....that's because it is. This is just a sample of what McMillin has openly said to the public. McMillin does NOT want to deal with ANY of these students in his charter schools. IMO....he hates public schools because he hates. If I said or believed any of this....I would be fired. He needs to go!
Mike Reno November 02, 2012 at 06:37 PM
Yeah, if it weren't for those pesky parents... this system would be perfect. Kristen... I'm not sure how you cannot see the hypocrisy. You are there for "all kids"... except those whose needs are not being met. And those, you brush off with a "maybe there should be more opportunities", and offer no recourse to those who are missing out. This one-size-fits-all, "we're good enough" attitude of public schools has got to change.
Paul Sprague November 02, 2012 at 06:46 PM
Tom seems to be the only one who is Big Goverment out of the 2 candidates. Taxing seniors , stripping communities of local control, unfunded mandates to municipalities. Rochester has elected Mr. Big Government.
Joshua Raymond November 02, 2012 at 07:05 PM
"There should be some alternative opportunities created, but public education is for all students." I would love this to be true. If it was, I wouldn't have to blog about gifted children getting opportunities to learn or attend every RCS Board of Education meeting. I would have another night a fortnight to spend with my family. Unfortunately, 5-7% of the student population is getting mostly ignored, with a few bright spots that still need improvement. One could easily fill an entire school with the gifted children in our district and if RCS won't step up to do so, no one should stand in the way of someone else do it. With the population here, RCS has such an opportunity to offer options such as magnet schools. Will they? Sometimes I fear it will take much more than parents lobbying to obtain these. The most disappointing part to me of Ms. VanRaaphorst's answer was "If we were able to increase overall funding for schools, I would support providing some monies to increase the teaching and learning of gifted and talented students." Why don't our children deserve to learn right now? Why does there have to be more money before high ability students receive the education they need? Public schools have had many years to get programs in place to meet the needs of gifted students. Many have not. If someone else is willing, please let them. The kids can't wait any longer. They are growing up now.
Mike Reno November 02, 2012 at 07:11 PM
For those who don't understand the issues... yes, it might certainly appear that way. The "taxing seniors" is one group who has enjoyed special treatment for years. They are now being asked to pay taxes, just like "normal" seniors. The "stripping communities of local control" meme is really an effort to defend irresponsible local governments. These local units of government have utterly failed to show any fiscal responsibility, and if left alone, will dump their irresponsible debt on the rest of us. I have misplaced my decoder ring, and cannot figure out the "unfunded mandates" spin.
doug November 02, 2012 at 07:35 PM
We are a party system. Regardless of how you feel about McMillan, a vote for Joanne is a vote for a Democratic Party agenda. This will be a close election, so you can't take the chance of tipping the scales, if you agree with the current direction of the state. I am also tired of hearing about the increase on seniors. Private sector seniors were already paying these taxes. This was just about fairness. Why should the public sector retiree get a pass when his neighbor didn't. It was also grandfathered to protect current retirees.
Paul Sprague November 02, 2012 at 07:51 PM
The increase was on defined benefit and defined contribution plans. Private and Public. Here is McMillin's agenda. He pushed for this legislation in the House. http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/401901/november-09-2011/the-word---bully-pulpit
Kristen Famiano November 02, 2012 at 08:10 PM
I am a taxpayer and learned how to address a letter. Therefore, I should have say in how the Post Office operates and how to best service the community. I watched GI Joe as a kid, so I should tell the military how to operate during a time of war. I should have say in their pay & benefits too. I must be an expert. Maybe I'll just hide behind "what's best for kids" when I want to really bust unions. I might even hide behind religion to spew hate on others. Are you reading this Senior Citizens? These are the same people who protect the corporations who screwed you out of your pensions. I don't need a decoder ring since I have an app for that to figure out who really cares about our Senior Citizens, children, and those who serve our community.
Tony November 02, 2012 at 09:08 PM
I will be voting for Mitt and jumping across for Joanna. McMillin photo with Brooks sealed it for me. Give me a break Tom. Tom is playing reindeer games once again. I'm sure Brooks has already called him.
Mike Reno November 03, 2012 at 12:38 PM
The post office is actually a great example. Look at priority mail versus FedEx or Priority Mail. Post office is far less precise on delivery time and tracking... But cost less. I have a choice... they are not a monopoly. And they are funded by the choices Americans make every day with the purchase of stamps. (at least that is the theory... in practice the government continues to prop up their losses with loans, but that is a different problem for a different discussion.) The military is different in several significant ways. First, they do not intrude and infiltrate our lives... they not force themselves on us. At time, perhaps under Marshall law, but that is short-lived under crisis circumstances. Second, they are risking their lives to protect our interests and freedoms. And third... they DO face significant scrutiny, and don't feel they are above crtiticism. As far as union busting... you are wrong. As long as you are a monopoly... your union will face opposition because it uses confiscated tax dollars, and protects ineffective teachers, and blocks rewards for good teachers. Offer choice, and let people choose your services, or make other choices with THEIR tax dollars... and you'll see all objection to union demands fade away. I have never understood why people who are so proud of their system feel such a need to prevent competition to it. Do you really fear people will leave in great numbers if offered a choice?
Brian Kirksey November 03, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Mike that is great analogy, post office is quasi-govt taxpayer supported business that also receives a portion of its revenue from stamps and postal services. If UPS and FedEx represent charter schools in your analogy, those too are great examples of how things should work. Two private companies that provide competition to USPS, that are not given any tax subsidies and exist solely on their own revenues, exactly how charters and cybers should be too. Providing choice and competition, but funded solely by private dollars. The reason why USPS exists and is funded by the govt is because not everyone can afford to send a letter for $10 or $4 for ground. Public schools are in existence to serve all, because they need to be there for all. Perfect no, but the current republican mindset of bleeding them dry to prove they are not good. Which stems from a vindictive vendetta toward MEA, and desire to enrich private companies. If the pubs really cared about kids, they would have fully funded the schools and brought classroom sizes to 20 kids per teacher...things which has been proven to be the best educational recipe for the majority of kids...you might also know them as the future of the economy
Joshua Raymond November 03, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Kristen, unfortunately parents come across this way of thinking way too much in our schools. We are expected to come to PTA fundraisers, help out stuffing folders or at class parties, and provide time for our kids to do homework. When we've needed to talk to the teachers and principals about the education of our children, we've had varying responses. There have been some that have been very good and worked well with us to get an education that fits our children. There have been others that have told us "I'm the professional here! I know what's best for your children." or indicated in other ways that our input was unwelcome. Education is too important an issue for parents to be left out of. It needs to be the parents, teachers, and administrators working together. When teachers throw up a way to parent involvement, that makes parents want to take their kids to different schools. Parents often feel that schools that have to "win" students, such as charter, parochial, and private, are more responsive to parents. I believe that part of the evaluation process for teachers and principals should be done by the parents. We know if our kids needs are being met and if educators are responsive to parents' questions and input. As I said, we've had some wonderful teachers who worked well with us, but we've had others who shut all parents out. I much prefer working with a teacher and it makes the year better for everyone.
diane glinski November 03, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Well played, Brian, well played.
Kristen Famiano November 03, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Yes...excellent example. FedEx, UPS, etc...are for profit and the Post Office is closing offices because of too much competition. I don't think any of them are doing as well as they would like...so they are cutting services or considering cutting services. Joshua, parent involvement and advocacy is good. My problem is with people like Mike Reno who drive progress in the wrong direction in the name of children. I grew up in an anti union household and I respect that opinion, but when a person insults your profession, I have a problem with that. I think anyone would. Collective Bargaining has leveled the playing field for women's rights in the workplace. My insurance helps me manage 2 chronic illnesses so I can give back to the school and community. My wages help me take classes to further my knowledge and complement my experience. It is an honor for me to be an educator and Mike Reno generalizes our intentions. I can tell you that vast majority of people I have met in my 16 years as an educator are the same way. I was inspired by teachers, coaches, counselors and 1 awesome school social worker to go into education to succeed like I have today. I respect your perspective Joshua. You have been honest and passionate about kids. I can only imagine how awesome it would be to collaborate with you on a project or program for kids:-)
Mike Reno November 03, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Brian, these "republicans want to bleed them dry" is just utter nonsense. I don't even know how to have a rational discussion about this when you assume such extreme motives. Our kids are in these schools. The thought that we are going to try to "destroy" them, and ruin the future of our children, just so we can prove some philosophical point about the MEA simply defies any sort of sane logic.
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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