MEA Repubicans Beware: GLEP is Back



Right Michigan is reporting that the Great Lakes Education Project is back in business, and has sent out questionnaires to candidates asking their positions on education reform issues (reprinted on RM). RM also reports, “The Devos family doesn’t appear to be leading the organization at this time but word is they’re aware of the relaunch and excited to see the battle continue.”


The return of GLEP is especially good news given another recent announcement: The MEA teachers union held a fundraiser for the House Republican caucus, reportedly attended by Minority Leader Craig DeRoche, Minority Floor Leader Chris Ward and Assistant Minority Leader Kevin Elsenheimer. Yes, you read that right. Although the union has a controlling stake in the Democratic Party and legislative caucuses, it’s smart politics for them to buy friends on both sides of the aisle.


What is GLEP, and why should you care? A (brief) history recap will explain. 


Back in the mid-1990s the MEA adopted a clever new strategy of running union-friendly, tax-friendly candidates in contested GOP primaries. For a few election cycles they romped, winning enough of these races to grant the school employee union effective veto-power over further education reforms in both the House and Senate, even though Gov. John Engler had substantial Republican majorities in both houses.


That success was due to the fact that no one was making Repub candidates pay a price for playing patti-cake with the defenders of the status quo government school establishment (“the Blob”). No one was even telling GOP voters that there was something “different” about these candidates. Given this information vacuum, and armed with union money and political muscle, these “MEA Republicans” did quite well


That was the situation until the Great Lakes Education Project was formed, backed by Devos money, and with a mission of ending this conspiracy of silence and contributing financially to pro-reform candidates in strategic races. GLEP had a genuine impact. While they were not able to obtain total victory for school choice in the legislature, by making candidates’ MEA-backing and their positions on education reform an issue in GOP primaries, and even in general election campaigns, GLEP was decisive in preventing an anti-education reform debacle in 2002 and 2004. With a pro-Blob governor after 2002, stalemate in the legislature was a victory.


What were the Really Bad Things that might that have happened had the MEA gained total control of the legislature? Effective prohibition of home schooling by requiring parents to be “certified teachers;” the end of charter schools; the repeal of cross-district schools of choice; repeal of the “teacher strike ban” (toothless though it may be); repeal of the preemption of bargaining over health insurance provider (ie. letting union negotiators demand that the MEA’s money machine MESSA be given school districts’ health care insurance contracts); and more. Bad stuff, and a reminder that for all its current dysfunctions and troubles things could be a lot worse in the Great Lakes state, and we have made significant progress in a critical area.


GLEP pretty much fell off the radar screen after 2004, presumably because it’s primary sponsor was focusing on a gubernatorial run. There has been a real concern that unless GLEP or some other well-funded entity picks up where they left off, the reform-rout could happen this year, or more likely in two years when the Senate is up, and that parade of horrors could become a reality. If the Blob has the Gov and the votes in the House and Senate, why not?


Given all that, you can imagine my relief to hear that GLEP is back. 


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One Response to “MEA Repubicans Beware: GLEP is Back”

  1. Nick Says:

    Great recap. Thanks for providing some really good context.

    If GLEP is able to come anywhere close to their old success rate the MEA is going to look back on this past week as the political moment the worm started to turn.


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