Michigan Teachers Forced To Rely On Food Stamps

Apr 17 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Since Governor Snyder took office, Michigan has been subjected to Draconian measures like the Emergency Financial Manager who just took over Benton Harbor, Michigan, stripping elected officials of any power but calling meetings open and closed or the EFM who just laid off every single public school teacher in Detroit (a move akin to kicking the dog). Teachers across the state are being kicked as a part of Snyder’s “market rate” “business approach” to the very real fiscal challenges facing Michigan. In one example of this, in the middle of attempting to negotiate a contract, a full time professor at Central Michigan University became eligible for food stamps.

The Union of Teaching Faculty reports that Central Michigan University professors are now eligible for government assistance:

CMU has record assets and revenue, but is allocating money to top administrative salaries—some of those for a medical school that doesn’t even exist yet! –Instead of to the underpaid faculty and staff who make CMU work.

CMU’s nontenure-track faculty members are paid so poorly that some of them fall below the federal poverty line—even while working full-time. The University’s current pay proposal for full-time faculty would leave intact the possibility of their needing (and being eligible for) government assistance to get by. 

Patrick McGinnity has an MFA and he has taught English at CMU for three years as a full-time faculty member. Patrick’s $24,600 yearly salary is insufficient to support his family of four, so they rely on government assistance, including WIC and a Bridge Card, to keep food on the table.

Dr. Mike Evans and Kenlea Pebbles are married CMU faculty members with two children. Although Kenlea is full-time and Mike teaches at four other colleges in addition to CMU, they make under $40,000 a year. Their two children, like Patrick’s qualify for reduced price school lunches, MI Child health insurance, and other tax-subsidized services.

You must have near poverty level income to quality for food stamps. As of June 2009, the average monthly benefit was $133.12 per person. Food stamps are paid for in part by the federal government, so it seems “small government” means relying on federal money to fund cuts to teachers; in other words, everyone who pays taxes is helping to fund Snyder’s shift in the distribution of wealth from the middle class to the corporations.

Since a portion of food stamp money comes from the very same pool as teachers’ salaries for public institutions, we can conclude that Snyder isn’t really attempting to address the budget. Like Walker’s policies in Wisconsin, Snyder’s policies are attempting to disenfranchise an entire class of people. He is using the unilateral (and arguably unconstitutional power) he granted himself to punish, destroy, disenfranchise, impoverish and/or starve certain segments of the population.

Even though we’re so “broke” that we can’t afford to pay teachers a living wage, we have endless money to enact unconstitutional power grabs and spend the states’ money fighting their appeals until they’re knocked down, as Arizona’s Papers Please law just was. The founders thankfully protected us from the modern day Republicans by anticipating the inevitablity of the zealotry and extremism of certain states and certain kinds of elected officials.

When it comes to political activism at the taxpayer expense, it seems Republicans think we’re rich. Forcing professors onto food stamps doesn’t do much to “incentivize” that hard work Republicans keep talking about, but it’s an interesting way of federally subsidizing their attempts to kill unions around the country.

Talks between the CMU faculty and the administration resume Monday.

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