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Action alert: Don't let them take the public out of public ed!

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Legislature rushing through dramatic education changes before year end
Respected Friend,

We hope you and your family enjoyed a warm and peaceful Thanksgiving holiday. But, as advocates for public education, it's important that you know about some measures being rushed through in Lansing during the holiday season.

Legislative leaders have committed to push through a long list of bills during this "lame duck" session, including two that could be devastating to public education as we know it. I realize that sounds over-the-top, but take a look at the bills on the fast track:

  • House Bill 6004 [link] makes a new state-wide school district, the Education Achievement Authority, which can take over the "bottom 5%" of schools, and perhaps others - while the local district has no say. The EAA is free to hand these schools over to for-profit charter management companies, and in fact it can charter new schools anywhere in the state (whether the schools there are failing or not). The EAA would be run by a board appointed by the Governor, and even the elected State Board of Education would have no say in its work.

This bill also requires school districts to sell or lease unused school buildings to the EAA or any other charter school, and requires the district to maintain empty buildings, at their own expense, until someone wants to use it. (Senate Bill 1358 is a twin of the House bill.)

  • House Bill 5923 [link] would create a host of new forms of charter school, including selective admission schools, boarding schools, single-gender schools, and potential store-front schools operated by cultural organizations, businesses and other groups. Part of the mission given to the EAA in HB 6004 is to implement these provisions.

This is bad policy and will not help us provide an excellent education to all children. It will, however, take away community control and funnel your tax dollars to for-profit corporations. Tell your representatives to put a stop to this, now!

Right now, the EAA exists because of an agreement between the Emergency Manager of Detroit Public Schools and Eastern Michigan Univ. HB 6004 would make the EAA a permanent part of the educational landscape, even if DPS or EMU chose to end the agreement.

Why the rush?

We have to wonder why the Legislature is so eager to make the EAA permanent and expand it when the EAA's track record is barely three months long. The EAA leadership is using teaching techniques that may be promising, but we have no idea if they can really improve schools. (The EAA Chancellor, Dr. John Covington, argues that his system was tried successfully in his former district, Kansas City public schools. After his abrupt departure last year, the Kansas City schools lost their state accreditation, which gives us pause about the quality of the EAA's program.) [link]

We also wonder why the bill sponsors are so careful to give the Governor complete control over the EAA, shutting out the State Board of Education which is both directly elected and given responsibility for public education in our state constitution. The bills even take away the State Board's power to name the state "school redesign officer" - responsible for forcing change in low-performing schools - and gives it to the Governor. How does this help our children?

These bills and a third proposal on school funding (see sidebar) represent a dramatic move away from public education actually governed by the public - and it seems to be motivated by ideology rather than a real interest in our kids.

Tell your representatives to put a stop to these efforts at undermining community-governed public schools, and instead take action to make sure that local schools have the support and resources they need to ensure a quality education for all children!

Steven Norton
Executive Director
Michigan Parents for Schools
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