Yesterday, representatives of the Grand Rapids Local Organizing Committee of the Millions More Movement held a press conference to announce the launch of a campaign to recall Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education member David Allen. The campaign–undertaken by the group’s Committee for Positive Community Change–is targeting Allen for his role in advancing an agenda of privatization in the Grand Rapids Public Schools. The group explained that Allen was president of the Board of Education when the proposal to privatize the district’s bus service came up and that Allen voted in favor of the measure in spring of 2005 and failed to use his influence as board president to oppose the plan. According to the Millions More Movement, there was widespread public opposition to the privatization effort but the school board, and Allen in particular, acted with “arrogance” and failed in their elected responsibility to represent the desires of the community. The privatization of the district’s bus service has resulted in cuts in wages by $3 to $6 per hour (depending on the wage) for drivers and the elimination of benefits. Between January and July of 2007, the group will be going door-to-door to gather signatures to place the issue on the ballot and to educate the public about the campaign. A potential replacement for Allen is expected to be announced in the future. The campaign has gathered the support of at least some of the district’s bus drivers, who stated that they supported the campaign but could make no further comment because of pending legal issues.
The campaign to recall Allen builds on months of research done by the Millions More Movement beginning in January 2006 when the group first began conferring about recent attempts (bus drivers and janitors in 2005, substitute teachers in 2006) to privatize elements of the Grand Rapids Public Schools. Based on their findings, the Millions More Movement charged that there has been a “large, vast conspiracy to privatize the district” in place by some members of the community since 1993. They went on to state that in “smoke-filled rooms” individuals and organizations–with their eyes on the $8,000 each GRPS student is worth in federal and state funding–are plotting to advance their agenda. This is being done through a strategy of creating the impression of “failing” schools and then offering privatization to the public as a solution. One strategy that could be pursued according to the Millions More Movement is a corporate takeover under the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act. Such a takeover is permitted under No Child Left Behind in school districts that fail to meet federally mandated standards.
The press conference was covered by four local corporate media outlets with WZZM 13, WXMI 17, WOOD TV 8, and WOOD Radio airing stories on the press conferences. Channels 13 and 8 both cited David Allen as saying that he expects the recall effort to be thrown out and that he is unaware of why he is focus of the group’s campaign.