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Michigan protests budget cuts

By Tom Burke

March 15 protest slams Governor Snyder

Grand Rapids, MI – 150 people protested here, March 15, against Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s plans to impose extreme budget cuts to health clinics, schools and other social services. The crowd chanted, “It’s not fair!” “Chop from the top!” and “They say cut back. We say fight back!” outside a health clinic serving mainly women and children on Cherry Street in Grand Rapids.

Concerned parents, union members and their children joined March 15 protests in many small cities and towns across the state. For many it was their first protest as they prepared for the big rally in the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing set for March 16. Thousands prepared to protest and possibly occupy the Capitol Building to stop harmful legislation.

The legislation being pushed by Governor Rick Snyder is deemed worse than the anti-union and anti-democratic laws imposed by Wisconsin’s Governor Walker. Michiganders are surprised by the sharp attacks from Snyder, who presented himself as the ‘nerd’ candidate, a sensible and moderate Republican. Snyder defeated two Tea Party candidates to win the Republican primary, but is now carrying forward the Wall Street agenda of imposing cuts in services and breaking unions. Everyone knows the money is in the banks and the rich people are hording it.

The Parent-Teacher Association circulated a notice explaining that Snyder is cutting per pupil funding by $470, while forcing local school districts to pick up 3.8% of pension responsibilities and as much as 20% of health insurance premiums. The Grand Rapids Public Schools Communication Director, John Helmholdt, sent an emergency alert explaining, “In addition to the per-pupil funding cut (a cost of $5.6 million to GRPS), the district is facing an additional $6 million-plus in cuts to the ‘categorical’ funds. Specifically, the Governor's budget cuts or eliminates funding for small class sizes, declining enrollment, bilingual services, special education services (expense reimbursement), school health centers and GRAPCEP Engineering and Biomedical School.”

The actual loss in funding from the state will be closer to $700 per student. This comes at a time when Grand Rapids Public Schools are announcing a successful turnaround in performance, gaining high marks in student achievement. The attacks from the state capitol are targeting urban school districts with large populations of African-American, Mexican-American and working class students.

The rally ended with a call to protest in Lansing on March 16 with unions, students and community organizations. Michigan’s own Michael Moore is organizing buses from all over the state and promising to cheer working people on as they take matters into their own hands at the State Capitol.

#GrandRapidsMI #PoorPeoplesMovements #BudgetCuts #BudgetCrisis #GovernorRickSnyder