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Legislative and other action alerts to MIPFS supporters

Legislative update: State control worked so well, let's do it again!

Dear Friends,
 

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...)

Advocacy update: briefing on the 3rd grade reading bill

Dear Friends,

I know you've been hearing a lot from me about this "third grade reading" bill that's in the Michigan House of Representatives. Sometimes events don't give you the time to explain as much as you'd like about what is at stake. So, I wanted to take a moment to brief you on what we're doing.

When we work in Lansing, we try to focus on getting good policy passed - and we are willing to work with anyone who is ready to do right by our kids. This bill is an example: it's got good parts, and bad parts. We've been working to make the good parts better and get the bad parts out.

Action alert: so many bad bills, so little time

TAKE ACTION!

So many bad bills, so little time

Let's play "Legislative Whack-A-Mole™"!

We're in the legislative "lame duck" session, so that means it must be time to push a lot of bad ideas into law while Michigan voters are getting ready for the holidays. And we have a great assortment of bad ideas this year: >>> Read More >>>

Departments: 

Our story, Part II: Michigan's new "DEW" line

Rather than early warning of a nuclear strike, a package of bills now before the Michigan Senate aim to give early warning of a school district in financial distress - a "deficit early warning" system, if you will. But if our lawmakers truly want an early warning, they should simply ask the parents, teachers and staff of our schools what they have been forced to do by Michigan's persistent failure to invest in public education.

These bills escalate the penalties for districts in financial difficulty - and layer on reporting requirements that seem primarily aimed at placing blame on the locals - while completely failing to acknowledge that districts might be in distress because of the actions of the Legislature. The bill package continues the neat shift of blame: the Legislature and Governor make the decisions about school funding, but the responsibility for cutting programs and opportunities available to our children is left for local school boards to shoulder.

At base, there are two competing stories about what is happening to our schools, and one of them is driving these bills forward.

It's Count Day: know where your school funding is going?

Just a few days ago, a group of Democratic state lawmakers announced that they would introduce legislation to put a hold on the creation of new charter schools until the state developed a better system to oversee their finances. The draft bill, of course, was a reaction to the stunning investigative work by the Detroit Free Press in their June expose on the questionable financial dealings of private, for-profit charter schools in Michigan. (If you haven't read it, you really should.)

Now, as the minority party in both houses of the legislature, there is essentially zero chance that this Democratic bill would be passed as-is. It's an election year, when you tend to see a lot of this kind of thing. But they were also trying to make a point. Part of that point is to say that the people of Michigan want to make sure that public funds which are intended to educate our children are not siphoned off to line some private contractor's pockets.

Departments: 

Action alert: backroom budget negotiations

Now that the state budget process is in its final stages, a final School Aid budget is only days away. There will be very little time to discuss it once it's made public, so it's important for parents to weigh in now.

Contact your state lawmakers today!

While we don't know what the proposal will look like, we do have the different versions proposed by the Governor and passed by the House and Senate. What we find there does not make us very optimistic.

  • Virtually all the Governor's advertised "$150 million" increase in student funding comes from money that will be left over from this year because there were fewer students than expected. This is true of the other versions, also.
  • Under the Senate and House plans, charter schools receive significantly larger increases, on average, than local school districts. In fact, the Senate plan would give charters almost $100 per pupil more on average.
  • Under the Senate plan, 340,000 students, including 110,000 living in poverty, would get the lowest possible increases in funding.
  • Most districts would fail to keep up with inflation under any of these plans. The Senate plan is again the most extreme: over half a million students (almost half of them living in poverty) would not have their funding keep up with inflation.

To top it all off, predictions for revenues next year are lower than they were when these plans were written. That can't be good news.

>>>>Click below to read more!

Action alert: Stories from EAA get worse, state still wants to expand

Once again, we are asking for your help. Our state is on the verge of compounding a terrible mistake by making it even bigger. As you might guess, I'm referring to the so-called Education Achievement Authority, an agency engineered by the Governor and billionaire donors to take over struggling schools and wave a magic wand over them. It started with 15 schools in Detroit, and the Legislature is nearing a vote on whether to take it to the "big time" state wide.

Only we're too old to believe in magic, and the EAA's work in Detroit has been a disaster rather than a miracle. This experiment should be ended, for the sake of the children in those schools. We should not base our state's entire program for helping struggling schools on a failed experiment that many call "educational malpractice." There are real alternatives, which can produce constructive change. Our "Parent Proposal" is just such an alternative, and there is now pending legislation which would take our state in a better direction.

Departments: 

Action alert: stop vouchers for vendors!

Stop "vouchers for vendors" - let's not make the same mistake as Louisiana!

Dear friends,

The Legislature is in the final days of setting the school aid budget for next year. Parents and other supporters of public education from around Michigan have been saying loud and clear that we want resources to support our local public schools and not be diverted to pet projects or questionable initiatives.

But there is one section of the budget that should worry every Michigander. In his proposed budget, the Governor added a new section that doesn't directly spend any money but has the potential to cost our schools a great deal. This section, Section 21f, would require every school district to allow their students to take two fully online courses per semester.

That doesn't sound too bad, does it? But wait - our school districts will have to pay for the courses, but they don't get to approve who provides the courses or whether the class is rigorous enough to count for academic credit. In some versions of the budget proposal, our schools even have to pay the full amount up front, even if the student doesn't finish. Even better, some versions say that it's the online provider, not the school, which gets to decide if a student has finished and earned credit.

What's up with road funding and schools?

Why will funding roads take money from schools?
So, what's up with roads and schools?
 
Dear Friends,

First off, let me thank the hundreds of you who have already contacted your State Representatives about road funding and the threat to our schools. Your message is important and is getting through.

Many people have asked for a bit more information about this whole deal - and I certainly understand, because it's somewhat complicated. I'm reprinting our earlier action alert below, but let me sketch out what is happening on this issue:

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