With Labor Day just a week or so away, children are heading back to school soon. Teachers are already busily preparing bulletin boards for parent and student meet-and-greets. School custodians are almost done waxing floors. Football, cross country and other teams and, of course, high school bands are getting ready for the first sporting events of the new school year.
On the first day of school, elementary school children will be asked a ubiquitous question. The conversation for some kids will go like this, including for my grandson who joined us on vacation this year:
Teacher: “Little Johnny, what did you do on your summer vacation?”
Johnny: “I went to Ontario, Canada.”
Teacher: “Canada? Wow! That’s a long way away.”
Johnny: “Nope. They’re our neighbors to the east. It’s just a few hours in a car. Closer than Cleveland. Grandpa says Canadians are much nicer than folks from The Ohio State. And Grandpa says the roads are better too.”
Teacher: “Now, Johnny. Tell the truth. Everybody knows that roads everywhere are a mess.”
Johnny: “Not in Ontario where we were. Grandpa says he hasn’t seen roads in Michigan that nice since the 1960s or 1970s.”
Teacher: “Johnny. Don’t fib.”
Johnny: “I am not fibbing. Grandpa says, he doesn’t know how they pay for roads in Ontario to make them so good, but he wishes that the folks in Lansing would play nice together in the sandbox and talk nice to each other.”
Teacher: “Maybe we will study Canada in geography class this year. I’ll think about it after I pick up my car tonight from the repair shop. They’re putting new struts, tie rods, and tires on my car. I hit a pot hole the size of a beach ball.”
Johnny: “The beaches in Goderich on Lake Huron were nice too. Lots of nearby parking too.”
Teacher: “Johnny! You’re fibbing again!”
Yup, school starts in a week and a half and Lansing still has not passed a Michigan school aid budget for the more than 500 Michigan school districts and 300 some charter schools. For many schools, teachers report back to work and superintendents and school business officials have to take a wild guess as to how much money they will have to spend on replacement computers, text books and other basics of running a district.
Maybe some of us ought to start asking our legislators what they have been doing during their summer vacations. I mean, other than being AWOL and on vacation virtually all summer without putting any ideas in writing and on the table about how to fix Michigan’s roads and bridges, reduce gun violence, make higher education affordable, or clean up the lead or PFAs in drinking water.
For the past eight years, Michigan has had a unified government in Lansing. Republicans controlled the House, Senate, governor’s office, attorney general and secretary of state, not to mention the Supreme Court. What have they done? Sure, they cut business taxes. You would expect a Republican-dominated Lansing to do that. But other than that, what have they done?
Michigan’s unemployment rate may be relatively low, but it remains stubbornly higher than the national average. Our K-12 reading and math scores have dropped like a rock cast into the middle of zebra-mussel-filled Lake Michigan. Children in Flint and Benton Harbor still have lead in their water. Parents struggle to pay tuition bills for their kids in college. Rural hospitals struggle to keep the doors open.
To the dismay of many of my friends, I am not saying that if the Democrats were in charge that they would wave a magic wand and all of the problems would disappear. What I am saying is that the problems of roads and bridges, clean drinking water, college tuition, school funding, and health care in our state are difficult ones. I, for one, wish I had never voted for term limits because we need experienced and open-minded lawmakers willing to reach out and listen to colleagues across the political divide to work together to start solving these issues.
Just like we can learn from our Canadian neighbors, we can learn from each other to move Michigan forward for the betterment of all Michiganders. I know I am asking for a lot, but I wish our elected representatives in Lansing would get to work, listen and talk to each other.
Robert L. Burgess, a Michigan native, has lived in Lincoln Township since 1993. His email is: email@example.com.