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Our five ideas for moving Michigan public ed forward

The new state Superintendent of Public Education, Brian Whiston, invited a number of state organizations - including MIPFS - to make presentations to the State Board of Education. He asked the groups to offer the three to five ideas which would help Michigan become a "top 10" state in educational outcomes.


MIPFS executive director Steve Norton and board member Elizabeth Welch presented our "five key ideas" at yesterday's SBE meeting. An outline of our presentation appears below; attached at the end of the article are PDFs of the documents we shared with the State Board members and MDE officials.

We need to start telling OUR story


Dear Friends,

mittenLet me tell you a little story about the Mitten & Rabbit. Some twenty years ago, the people of the Mitten (and their northern cousins in the Rabbit) were convinced to try an experiment: to see if they could make their public schools better by introducing competition. At the same time, they also wanted to make sure schools were funded adequately and more fairly than in the past. So the leaders of the Mitten passed laws and made changes to get the experiment started, and they expected that future leaders would closely follow the experiment to see how it was working, and make corrections as needed.

Times changed, the economy worsened, and newer, less experienced, leaders of the Mitten were more concerned about making things cost less than about making them work well. Competition, it turned out, was rigged and didn't help schools improve so much as it allowed some new players to make a profit while existing schools struggled. Funding that was generous in the beginning failed to keep up with rising costs, but leaders were afraid to ask the people to pay more for their community's schools - or to let them do it themselves. And after twenty years, no one had had the courage to see if the experiment was really living up to its promises. The children of the Mitten were the ones who lost the most from this downhill slide, but then they don't vote (or make campaign contributions).

Sound familiar? That's where we find ourselves today. The experiment with competition has not made schools better or stronger; it has taken the public voice out of many supposedly "public" schools and lined the pockets of a few investors. Many people have been conned into believing that you can make schools better by starving them of resources. And as any magician knows, the key to a good trick is to get people to focus their attention somewhere else. (Cont'd...)

MI Parents: Keep the Public in Public Education

Proposals for organization & funding of K-12 education in Michigan

Prepared for State Board of Education, 13 May 2014

Pres. Austin, Supt. Flanagan, and members of the Board:

Preface

Michigan parents value their local public schools and appreciate the hard work being done by all those who bring life to public education. No institution is perfect, and local public education is no exception. But parents are painfully aware of the struggles faced by our schools, driven in part by policy decisions at the state level - which have reduced our direct investment in K-12 education - and in part by changes in the Michigan economy, which have put our families and communities under tremendous stress.

Michigan public education is not "broken;" it has weathered tremendous blows over the last 15 years that have reduced its ability to serve all students as well as we want it to. Any proposals to change the structure and funding of our public schools must address this fundamental fact. >>>>Click below to read more

Education is not like toothpaste

Will market competition really improve education?

As the policy debates over education “reform” continue, some of the key underlying issues – competing worldviews – are starting to emerge clearly. The first public introduction, last July, of Governor Snyder’s advisory panel on the school funding law provided one perspective (see upcoming article). They view their charge as making sure money follows the student, and their work relies on the idea that competition among many different kinds of education “providers” will result in the best outcomes.

Another perspective was offered in a blog post by noted education historian Diane Ravitch. In her post, she reprinted a reader’s comment which decried the “reform” direction of treating schools like businesses. In this model, schools that succeed will continue; those which fail to attract students will be shut down. The comment emphasized the personal and community cost of closing schools and rending relationships.

These differing views nicely bracket one of the essential conflicts underlying the whole school “reform” debate. The conflict is this: what system produces better outcomes – community decision-making, or market competition? The answer, of course, depends a lot on what kind of outcome you are trying to get.

Special sections: 

Getting clear about "profit" in our public schools

No matter what some people say, local public schools don't make a "profit." But many charter school operators do. Is that what's best for our kids?

After years of quiet, malign neglect, the issue of profit in our public schools has become a topic of public discussion. What's the problem? The problem is that we are starting to see a separation between the "school" and the companies that run the schools and hire the people who actually teach our kids. That is where the issue of profit raises its ugly head. Because where there's profit, there's also an incentive to use the political process to create more.

Departments: 

Action alert: still time to act on school retirement bills

Dear Friends,

As we said in our last Legislative Update, they've been playing "let's make a deal" in Lansing, and we weren't invited. Now they intend to wave their deal in front of our collective noses for a few moments as they rush to pass it into law. We need you to speak out as soon as possible!

Action alert: The Great Pension Diversion

It's budget season in Lansing, and there are some important issues that need to be settled about school funding. But, as any good magician knows, the key to a good trick is to keep your audience's attention focused someplace else.

For that flashy bit of distraction, we have the wrong-headed effort to end the school pension system at a cost of more than a billion dollars a year for the next four decades. Right now, legislative leaders are not only insisting on closing the state public school retirement system (MPSERS) to new hires, but have cut off budget negotiations with Gov. Snyder because of his continued opposition to the retirement changes.

Action alert: Ditching the income tax is irresponsible!

[Update: HB 4001 was defeated on 23 Feb in a House floor vote, 52-55. In an unusual move, the House leadership went forward with a roll call vote despite not having enough votes to pass the bill. Twelve Republicans joined all but one Democrats in voting no. More coverage soon.]
Dear Friends,
 
House Bill 4001 would eliminate the state income tax. It could be voted upon this week in the House.
 
 
What was once a fringe idea actually could pass this week. Even though proposed to be cut over 40 years, we would all feel the impact immediately. The biggest cuts come right away, slashing $1.8 billion in the first two years.
Departments: 

Got Jargon? Technical terms defined

The education funding and policy world in Michigan is filled with jargon and technical terms that make the whole subject confusing for non-specialists. We'll use this document to try to clarify some of those terms for parents who want to gain a better understanding of the K-21 policy debates in our state.  

First look at Snyder's 2018 school aid budget

Governor Rick Snyder's proposed school aid budget for next year has been greeted with cautious optimism by public school advocates, and with good reason. All schools would receive an additional $50-$100 per pupil next year, funding earmarked for at-risk students would get a significant increase, and high schools would receive an extra $50 per student to cover their higher costs. But good ideas rarely make it through this Legislature unscathed. This budget in particular is likely to anger pro-privatization forces in the state, setting things up for a major battle over the coming months.

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In the news

MIPFS is working with parent group 482Forward, ACLU Michigan, and many school groups to ensure public funding goes to public schools.


MIPFS also contributed considerable background to this article, raising serious questions about the strategy of closing schools.


MIPFS presents to the State Board of Education


Founder of our Forest Hills affiliate testifies before State Board, 9 May 2013


Our op-ed on the EAA's failure and why the Parent Proposal embodied in HB 5268 is a better alternative. MLive.com, 9 Feb 2014


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