Monday, March 30, 2009

Pushing the Agenda

In the classic movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Jimmy Stewart plays the naive Jefferson Smith, who is appointed a U.S. Senator. Lacking any political experience, he goes to Washington and is rudely confronted by machine politics and a culture of corruption, with other senators, including one of Smith's heroes, passing legislation to pay off their backers.

Here in Michigan, we are either accustomed to this culture or worn down by its relentlessness or simply unable to keep up with it all. As a public service, therefore, let's look at one state representative pushing the agenda for those who are responsible for her election, rather than looking out for the people of her district and the state.

Shanelle Jackson is the representative for the 9th District in northwest Detroit. This is the district in which I grew up. On March 26, Jackson introduced House Bill 4712, which amends the school code by imposing a new requirement if a school is not meeting expectations:

If the school is an elementary school, the superintendent of public instruction shall issue an order requiring that the maximum class size in the school for grades K to 3 shall not exceed 17 pupils per classroom.

There it is -- the payoff to the teacher unions, who advocate for smaller class size so that districts will be forced to hire more unionized teachers. This has nothing to do with student performance, since numerous studies (and just about every Catholic school) have debunked the notion that smaller class size is necessary for improved academic performance.

There are other examples of this agenda-pushing in Jackson's recent history. She has sponsored bills to revise the Cobo regional facility along the lines of Monica Conyers' desires (HB 4602) and to reestablish Recorder's Court in Detroit (HB 4140). The latter bill addresses a longstanding sore point with the judicial revisions accomplished during Governor Engler's tenure and is little more than a paean to the criminal defense bar and liberal judicial interests.

Fortunately, Rep. Jackson is not a complete lost cause. During the 2007-2008 session, she and eight other representatives sponsored HB 4762, that would have required first class school districts to "provide pupils with a moment of silence, not to exceed 5 minutes, at the beginning of each school day to allow time for optional meditation before instruction begins." While Detroit is (I think) the only "first class school district" (more than 100,000 students) in Michigan, and I can't think of a reason why a moment of silence would not be good for all school districts, at least that bill would have been a start. A start, that is, until the rest of Jackson's constituents challenged the law as unconstitutional.

Jefferson Smith prevailed when he single-handedly filibustered the corrupt legislative centerpiece his opponents were pushing. We don't have that same opportunity, since liberals push their agenda continuously, on all fronts. We must remain vigilant and energetic if we are going to preserve our liberty and stop the continuing encroachment of big government.

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