Right to Work Protests Grow, Michigaan Students Underperform

According to data released by the U.S. Department of Education, a mere 7% of 8th graders attending schools in Detroit, Michigan are proficient at reading. According to CNSNews, these findings put a day of protests by public sector employees, including teachers, scheduled for today and later this week into stark relief.

The report also shows that the percentage of students who are at grade level in mathematics is even lower, with only 4% scoring well enough on the National Assessment of Educational Progress 2011 exam to be considered either proficient or better.

Although Michigan as a whole performed better than Detroit, the numbers still represent a serious cause for concern. Roughly 30% of Michigan students achieved results high enough to be considered proficient in mathematics, with a slightly higher number showing proficiency in reading and literacy.

68 percent of Michigan public-school eighth graders are not proficient in reading and 69 percent are not proficient in math.

According to the data, there has been almost no improvement in student outcomes in the state over the past ten years; only 32% of school children in Michigan were at grade level in reading in 2002.

The news is somewhat better when it comes to math. Over the last decade, the number of children who are considered proficient or better in mathematics went up by three percentage points, from 28% to 31%.

Meanwhile, as Governor Rick Snyder was preparing to sign the Right to Work bill into law on Tuesday, teachers massed in protest, with so many taking sick and vacation days that several school districts across the state were forced to shut down.

The “sick outs” have caused district-wide closures across Warren Consolidated Schools, Taylor School District and Fitzgerald Public Schools. According to Michigan Capitol Confidential, a publication by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a right-wing think tank in the state, the closures affect at least 26,000 students.

The new law will stop automatic payroll deduction for union dues from public employees’ paychecks, leaving the option to join or opt out of the union up to each individual employee. While the lawmakers who proposed and voted for the measure say that this allows workers the freedom of association guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, union supporters claim that the law’s only purpose is to weaken union protection and ability to advocate on behalf of its members.

President Barack Obama, who was in the state this week, called the legislation plainly political, describing it as “the freedom to work for less money.”