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Testimony and letters to lawmakers on school issues; other public statements

Schools are hurting - we need to help

Testimony on the Fiscal 2014 School Aid Executive Budget proposal
Prepared for House Appropriations subcommittee on School Aid, 19 February 2013


Drawing on the data we used in an earlier article about the Governor’s budget proposal – Eleven percent increase in schools since 2009-10? Not so much.MIPFS testified before the Michigan House Appropriations Subcommittee on School Aid earlier this week. Our purpose was to point out that the executive budget proposal did not represent an increase in funding available for school operations, despite rhetoric to the contrary. Funding levels were actually much lower than in previous periods, especially after taking inflation into account, despite the smaller number of pupils.

MIPFS called for a significant, real investment in preschool through secondary education so that our public schools could do the job we have asked of them.

"A la carte" school funding plan ignores basic purpose of public ed

MIPFS reaction to the Oxford Foundation school funding proposal, 14 December 2012

Earlier this year, Gov. Snyder asked Lansing attorney and longtime political operative Richard McLellan to lead an effort to re-write the School Aid Act, the basic law that spells out how K-12 education is funded in Michigan. The approach that emerged was a radical change in direction, one that put the focus on students acquiring bits of knowledge from multiple “providers” rather than helping communities build and govern their local schools. More information on the proposal can be found at the Oxford Foundation web site. We’ll cover this proposal in more detail in an upcoming article.

Public comment was requested on the proposal. Our conclusion was that the proposed legislation would take Michigan in precisely the opposite direction of where we need to go.

Testimony on EAA legislation (Round 2)

Michigan Parents for Schools views on HB 6004 (H-1)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

While we appreciate that several concerns have been addressed in the H-1 substitute for HB 6004, sadly our main objections remain.

The bill assumes that the EAA will be successful. While there are provisions for a school “graduating” from the EAA, there are no provisions for handling a school that fails to improve under EAA control. Instead of calling the EAA into question, such schools are likely to be subjected to an endless round of restructurings and turnarounds – devastating the school, its students, and the local community.

Is this EAA “solution” so promising and certain that it’s worth stripping away community control? Better to implement a solution that can be done with the community, rather than to it.

Departments: 

Testimony on EAA legislation (Round 1)

Testimony of Michigan Parents for Schools on HB 6004 to the House Education Committee, Rep. Lisa Lyons, Chair – November 19, 2012


Madam Chair and members of the Committee,

We write to you, on behalf of public school parents and concerned citizens from across the state of Michigan, to express our concerns about House Bill 6004. While our reservations range from the very broad to the very specific, they are sufficient for us to ask you not to report this bill out to the full House. In fact, we believe that effective approaches to the problems HB 6004 seeks to solve require a very different approach.

There is no question that a substantial portion of our public school student population is struggling, and that a number of our public schools are in turn having great difficulty meeting the needs of those students. We welcome efforts by the State, through the Michigan Department of Education, to provide focused assistance to struggling schools. But the approach in this bill is light on help to, and heavy on punishment of, local districts.

The “student centered learning” concept presented in last week’s testimony is an interesting and promising approach to teaching, but it is not new. In fact, we have heard similar ideas discussed in a number of districts around the state. The problem, as always, is implementation — especially in a regulatory environment that punishes mistakes.

Departments: 

Exchange with MAPSA over charter school segregation

In January 2012, we had an exchange of press releases with the Michigan Association of Public School Academies over the issue of segregation in charter schools. We remain concerned about this issue and will be reporting on it more in the coming months. In the meantime, we offer up copies of the press releases as an example of how important issues can be used to serve a political agenda.

Death watch for our public schools?

The Muskegon Heights “model,” where education is turned over to charter schools and the local district remains as a shell to pay off the district’s debt, looks to be spreading to Highland Park as well. Is this an omen? What can we do?

MIPFS testimony on retirement plan (MPSERS) restructuring - SB1040

MIPFS Executive Director Steven Norton testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Retirement to express our concerns with the latest attempt to restructure the public school employee retirement system (MPSERS). An extract is below, and the full copy of his testimony is attached.

Departments: 

"Cyber" charters: getting the incentives wrong

MIPFS believes that SB 619 will open the doors to an unwise, unregulated, explosion of online charter schools. We sent this letter to all members of the House Education Committee:

 
Dear Representative,

On behalf of concerned parents across Michigan, we wanted to reach out to you directly as the House Education Committee approaches a vote on Senate Bill 619, removing limits on “cyber” charter schools.

We have offered testimony on this issue, and I hope you have had a chance to review the concerns prompted by other states’ experience with these entirely online K-12 schools. All those stories of poor performance and financial improprieties really boil down to one central issue, in our view.

As governments and businesses around the globe work to improve their performance, we hear one topic again and again: the need to “get the incentives right.” While we don’t believe that incentives determine everything, they are clearly a powerful force which can help, or hinder, an organization’s mission.

It is because of concerns about incentives that we have consistently argued against for-profit entities providing instructional services in any public school context. Likewise, we have called on policy makers to look beyond standardized tests as a way of evaluating teachers, administrators and schools, because of the perverse incentives a singular focus on test scores can have in any school or district.

Departments: 

Testimony on virtual ("cyber") charter bill - SB 619, 1-18-12

The House Education Committee held more hearings today on the remainder of the bills in the so-called “parent empowerment” package. We offered testimony opposing one bill in particular: Senate Bill 619, which would remove any limits on the number or enrollment of entirely online charter schools, called “cyber schools” in the bill. While the use of online learning has been growing, the focus of this bill is on K-12 schools which have no physical location and serve students entirely over the internet.

Testimony on "uncapping charters" bill 11-2-11

MIPFS was one of only a handful of groups who had a chance to testify on Senate Bill 618 before the House Education Committee. We called for the House to defeat SB 618 or, failing that, make critical changes to the bill which would protect students and our community-governed public schools.

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