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Our take on developments in school funding and policy.

The human cost of the "technocrats"

How many times do Michigan residents have to absorb disastrous policies before we decide a change of course is in order?

How many times do high-handed technocratic systems that usurp elected control have to fail before we demand a government "of, by, and for the people"? These are the questions that come front and center to anyone who has read the latest revelations about the Flint water disaster and has even a passing familiarity with our state's other experiments with technocratic central control. While we at MIPFS focus on education, the implications are much wider: how do we ensure that our policymakers serve and protect the people of our state? This is a crucial question to keep in mind as we go into an election year.

Scrooged: A Lansing Parable

As Michigan Parents for Schools begins its tenth year, and since we're in the holiday season, I thought it might be a good moment for a retrospective on what has been done to public education over the last decade. Think of me as the "Ghost of Policy Present," offering to introduce you to the "Ghost of Legislation Past" and a tour down memory lane. Please stay for the tour.

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.

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

h4. 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: 

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.

Some thoughts on the 3rd grade reading bill

A bill intended to promote comprehensive reading intervention services has generated a lot of controversy lately, because of its origins in last session's infamous "third grade flunking" bill. But the proposal is very different this time around, and I wanted to offer some insight into what we at MIPFS have been doing on this issue. As of this writing, we are reserving judgement on the bill but have been working with lawmakers to improve it.

Detroit: thin end of the wedge

Governor Rick Snyder's proposal to restructure Detroit Public Schools is carefully framed to emphasize delivering a quality education to underserved children and careful management of finances. But as with so many education policies these days, which claim to focus on the needs of "children, not adults," the reality is quite different.

To no one's great surprise, his plan bears little resemblance to the plan put forward by a broad-based coalition of Detroit stakeholders issued just weeks ago. Instead, the Governor's plan bundles together a number of policy tools which have been spectacular failures when used separately. Perhaps we are to embrace the notion that, in Michigan, three wrongs do make a right?

Time to stop using kids' schools as a cookie jar

When does a "supplemental" spending bill not actually supplement anything? When it's a "negative supplemental," of course! (In everyday language, that's a mid-year budget cut.) Who is being "negatively supplemented"? Our children.

It turns out that our state government is in the hole some $532 million for the current year because some tax credit promises to business made years ago are being presented for payment. In characteristic fashion, however, our state government has chosen to partly duck the issue by taking money from - you guessed it - our K-12 public schools. To the tune of $250 million. It's like a rerun of a bad TV sitcom.

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