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Media Falls for Union Push-Poll Ruse

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The Michigan Education Association announced this week that a public poll it funded reveals that Michigan residents agree with the union’s take on pending education reforms.

The EPIC/MRA survey results also show that respondents don’t think too much of Gov. Rick Snyder, state Republican lawmakers or their education agenda.

The MEA must think Michiganders are either really stupid or really gullible. Perhaps worse, the media fell for the ruse.

Consider the lead in to a question posed to those surveyed by the union earlier this month:

“Opponents of legislation to allow local public school districts to outsource teaching services say teachers hired by private companies will not have the experience of those who work for local public school districts, nor the commitment or loyalty to the district or students. Also, they will probably be paid much less and have inferior health insurance and other benefits. That will only force longtime teachers to leave the profession or seek employment elsewhere, with private companies keeping the leftover profits. Knowing this, do you favor or oppose legislation to allow local public school districts to outsource instructional teaching services? [IF FAVOR/OPPOSE, ASK] Would that be strongly or somewhat?”

It’s no wonder the majority answered in opposition. Public opinion surveys with such leading questions are known as push-polls, and are designed to solicit specific responses. College freshman learn that in Political Science 101.

What baffles us is why any self-respecting journalist would buy into this ridiculously tainted survey. Unfortunately, several did.

MLive.com writer Jeff T. Wattrick used the worthless data to come to the conclusion that “Michigan’s self-styled ‘education reformers’ have of late comported themselves in a way that suggests they’re at best out-of-touch, and at worst incompetent.”

Wattrick’s hit piece calls the MEA survey results “remarkable” but “not terribly surprising.” We’re unsure if his ill-conceived musings are supposed to be a news report or opinion piece. Other outlets, including the Macomb Daily and Fox47 television station, also paid lip service to the MEA’s self-serving poll. Their participation in the union’s misinformation campaign is appalling.

Here are a few figures to consider from the Michigan Department of Education’s analysis of college readiness among Michigan students, which presents some startling unbiased facts about the union’s influence in public schools.

At 230 high schools in the state, not a single student in the 2011 class was considered ready to attend college. At more than half of Michigan’s high schools, fewer than 10 percent of graduates are ready for college.

That reality plays into other emerging Michigan trends reported by the U.S. Census Bureau: Michigan lags behind the rest of the U.S. in terms of income and residents with college degrees. The state’s reluctance to tackle its education problems head on - due primarily to the MEA’s consistent opposition to reform - is clearly taking its toll.

The MEA-commissioned survey is only the union’s latest attempt to distract the public from real, serious issues that have plagued Michigan school finances and dragged down academic progress for decades. The union’s own poll found that the majority of Michigan residents have a negative perception of the state’s public schools.

Lawmakers targeted by the survey are working to make difficult but necessary decisions that will put schools back on firm footing, both academically and financially.

If the union was truly committed to improving K-12 education in Michigan, it wouldn’t be attempting to bamboozle the public with misleading propaganda. If union leaders were concerned about students and teachers, they would be far better off surveying schools that have learned to adapt and thrive in the current economic conditions. That would be useful information.

Instead, MEA bosses have continued their quest to squash all change, restrict a parent’s right to choose the school for their child, and protect policies that put the union’s financial interests ahead of student learning.

The MEA’s financial reports reveal that the union has sent a lot of money to its partner polling company EPIC/MRA over the years, so it shouldn’t exactly be a shocker that its survey results support the union’s political positions. But what’s more concerning is that area reporters, supposedly unbiased gatekeepers of public information, are so willing to spread the MEA’s misinformation.

Even a cursory check into the questions posed in the MEA push poll should be enough to convince most journalists that the data is worthless. The fact that they didn’t, or don’t, care should outrage those who are actually working to improve public schools.

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