“Education is not complicated,” say some lawmakers. Really?
We keep hearing the same confident claim in Lansing: the way to fix struggling schools is to get rid of the adults keeping the kids back – the school administrators, the teachers’ unions, the incompetent or corrupt school boards. Sweep them aside, replace them with business-like management and inexperienced but enthusiastic teachers, mix in a little technology, and you will see a miracle. If only it were so. But it is not.
The same blind beliefs are behind the bills to expand the Education Achievement Authority statewide after only three months. Not only that, but the changes were forced on the local community rather than being built with them. We cannot rely on management magic or quick fixes to help kids. We need solid strategies, with good track records, and the resources to implement them for the long term. When will we finally have that conversation in Michigan?
“Critics often say ‘the governor is trying to destroy public education as we know it,’ [Lansing attorney Richard] McLellan said. ‘That’s accurate.’”
Well, there it is. Doesn’t get much more “straight from the horse’s mouth” than coming from Lansing attorney and longtime political operative Richard McLellan. As a leader of the obscure Oxford Foundation, Mr. McLellan led the effort to devise a radically altered way of funding K-12 education for Gov. Snyder. He is also the author of the controversial Education Achievement Authority bill now in the legislature, as well as a proposal to dramatically increase the types of charter school that would receive public funding in Michigan. Some twelve years ago, he also spearheaded a constitutional amendment that would have permitted school vouchers in Michigan, which was defeated handily by the voters.
This radical package of proposals is in danger of being overlooked in the wake of today’s protests over a “right to work” bill and the use of pepper spray by police to subdue protesters visiting the Capitol to express their anger at that proposal.
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.
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?
This message went out to our mailing list this morning. We’re reproducing it here for anyone who is not yet a subscriber to our list.
This newsletter focuses on the bills before the state House to make changes to the Michigan Merit Curriculum (the state’s high school graduation requirements). While the bills differ, they agree on eliminating the foreign language and arts requirements; they also reduce requirements in science, math, and social studies.
Nevertheless, the budget bills do outline some major changes in how we fund our schools:
Use of the School Aid Fund to support community colleges and state universities is now a permanent feature (the final conference report includes intent language to change the name of the SAF to the “Comprehensive Education Fund”);
The commitment to maintaining the funding stream for K-12 education has been seriously eroded – for example, with the failure to replace earmarked revenue lost when the Michigan Business Tax was ended.
Both MIRS News and the Grand Rapids Press are reporting that the emergency manager running schools in Muskegon Heights has proposed replacing the public school district with a network of charter schools.
“I love empowering parents”
– interim House Education chair Tom McMillin (R-Rochester) on passing SB 619
I am furious and disgusted.
Furious that once again, the education budgets now under discussion continue to strangulate our community-governed, local public schools. Disgusted that the raft of policies enacted in the last year which erode public education and public schools are described by their supporters as somehow “empowering parents.” Orwell couldn’t have done better.
Let’s review the last year in legislation, shall we?
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.