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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.

Letter to US Senate on DeVos nomination for USED

Dear Chairman Alexander and members of the Committee,

We write to you today, on behalf of thousands of parent advocates across the State of Michigan, regarding the nomination of Mrs. Betsy DeVos to serve as United States Secretary of Education. Unfortunately, we cannot support Mrs. DeVos' nomination and ask that the Committee vote not to confirm her for the post.

As advocates for strong local public education in the State of Michigan, we have considerable experience with Mrs. DeVos' priorities and efforts in the field of public education. Sadly, her priorities do not match those of the people of Michigan and her efforts have not been in the best interests of our school-age children.

Interesting times

Dear Friends,

We are clearly living in interesting times. Last week's election results were completely unanticipated by polls and most pundits. As a result, this is a time of great uncertainty as we all strive to understand where events are likely to take us.

Inside:

  • Washington turmoil
  • Upcoming issues in Lansing
  • Please support MIPFS!

While many issues have been grabbing headlines in the last few days, our responsibility is to monitor education policy and that is why I am writing you today.

Departments: 

School Aid budget meets reality

The state's top economists met on Tuesday, and delivered the not-so-good news: state tax revenue, including school aid funding, was going to be lower than we thought, by almost $175 million this year and $160 million in the next year. Since the state budget has to be balanced, the proposed budgets for next year have to be "adjusted" accordingly.

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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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