Public Education Leaders, Parent Groups to Sue State and Gov. Snyder to Protect Public Schools
LANSING, Mich. – Public education leaders and parent groups from across Michigan will today file a lawsuit to prevent the state and Gov. Rick Snyder from funding private schools with public money. The lawsuit stems from a $2.5 million line item in the state budget that reimburses private institutions for state mandates.
MIPFS has been advocating for changes to Section 1280c, and broadly to State policy with regard to struggling schools, for several years. In fact, a version of our proposal was introduced in the 2013-14 legislative session as HB 5268 of 2014. In brief, the "Parent Proposal to Assist Struggling Schools" would accomplish the following:
Provide real, customized support to local schools and districts;
Balance our basic respect for local control with the legitimate desire of Michigan citizens to ensure that all children receive a quality education;
Engage all relevant stakeholders to ensure that changes are both implemented and sustained; and,
Provide tools for state agencies to insist on certain reforms without resort to complete takeover of a school or district.
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.
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.
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:
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
Last week, Governor Rick Snyder unilaterally stripped the Michigan Department of Education of responsibility for intervening in struggling schools.
His executive order moved that responsibility to the Department of Technology, Management and Budget, on the specious grounds that DTMB's role in running the state's school database somehow gives them expertise on turning around troubled schools. In fact, as the text of the order makes clear, Gov. Snyder is impatient with MDE - which answers to the elected State Board of Education - for not acting faster to take over schools. So, by moving that authority to DTMB, the governor also places that function directly under his own control.
US Education Secretary Arne Duncan believes that we need to improve our country's teacher preparation programs - and that we need to use student growth and achievement data to do it.
For several years now, the US Dept of Education has been discussing proposed rules which would require states to rate their colleges of education and like programs. These ratings would also affect eligibility for Federal dollars. As a part of this effort, USED has wanted to include student test scores ("achievement" and/or "growth" data) as part of the ratings - that is test scores of K-12 students who were taught by recent graduates education degree programs. A special committee, comprised of numerous stakeholders, worked nearly a year to come to agreement on new rules, but was unable to do so. So, the Department has gone ahead with it's own ideas of how the people who teach teachers should be evaluated.
We propose a better direction for education policy in Michigan: one that focuses on improving schools for all children. Our first duty is to ensure that our local, community-governed public schools can perform their Constitutional mission by providing them with the support and resources they need to serve their students.
#1 We must use our educational goals to determine funding requirements, rather than allow funding levels to entirely determine the shape of education.
Strategies to turn around troubled schools need to address specific local challenges and be owned by the local school and district community
With the recent push to pass a bill on the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) before the winter 2013 legislative break, it’s more important than ever that parents start talking about real alternatives that work. For the last year, MIPFS has worked with parent groups, educational leaders and lawmakers to develop a positive program that will actually help struggling schools. This article outlines our proposal.
Existing law does not provide enough assistance to local schools in diagnosing and solving their difficulties. To compound the problem, the law provides for complete state takeover as the only remedy for schools which fail to improve. The parents’ alternative is based on these core ideas:
Any effective school improvement strategy must focus on the particular circumstances of the school or district that is a candidate for intervention, and be tailored to address local needs and shortcomings.
Diagnosis of educational problems is best done by experienced and disinterested specialists, but the solutions to those problems will be most durable if they are hammered out and implemented by all relevant stakeholder groups.
Unilateral state intervention must be a last resort, and must be focused solely on implementing the changes identified as necessary in the independent review.
The goal of state intervention for school improvement is not to take over management of the school but to identify and see implemented educational and organizational changes, which are critical to the long-term growth of student achievement.
“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?