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Questions Surrounding the new Education Legislation

President of the Grosse Pointe Board of Education has questions surrounding the new legislation making it's way through the Michigan Legislature right now

I have been struggling with and thinking over the new education legislation working its way through the state legislature right now.  These bills include expanding the EAA, the ability to create new schools and of course there is the Oxford Foundations Report.  Dr. Harwood did an excellent job on explaining the legislation and the impact on Grosse Pointe on his latest blog http://gpschools.schoolwires.net/Page/11563.

I myself am trying to keep an open mind but am very skeptical that any of this legislation is about improving academic outcomes.  I realize that something needs to be done, but there is nothing substantial in these bills, that address the core issues of failure, such as poverty or parental involvement.  I have been reviewing the Civic Marshall Plan, and the benchmarks that they use to make data driven decisions. These benchmarks include but are not limited to, early childhood education, addressing chronic absenteeism, an early warning intervention system, high school credit recovery programs, mentoring programs and early reading programs.  All of these interventions have been shown to improve academic performance, and should be considered best practices, yet funding is not tied to these types of programs.  Funding will now be tied to performance and proficiency.  My first question is, why not fund these interventions, so the performance and proficiency develop?

 

Some of my questions that surround how the new funding will be implemented or even distributed have been met with; we will work that out later. Richard McClellan has stated not everything is worked out yet.  I cannot imagine implementing any type of funding policy in the GPPSS and then tell the community; oh we can work that out later.  I expect to be able to answer what impact that policy will have on our academic programs and our students.  I expect no less from our state legislature and neither should you.  Any time our children's education is being legislated every “I” must be dotted and every “t” crossed before it is brought to a vote.

 

My next question goes to choice.  Michael Van Beek has stated that choice has been available in Michigan for 18 years, over 85% of school districts participate in some form of choice, why expand?  After 18 years of choice we still have over 138 failing schools.  The research on Charters has shown that they are performing the same or worse as public schools, although there are some successful and good charters out there.  In a recent survey, parents overwhelming supported strong community neighborhood schools. This is what they want, yet this is not what the new legislation is offering.

 

Last year the cap on charter and cyber schools was lifted, signed into law by Governor Snyder, I am not opposed to the idea of charter schools, but let us make sure there is a rigorous review process in place for any proposed new school.  This is one of the bills working its way through the legislature’s lame duck session.  Michigan Virtual High School had no 11th graders proficient in math on the MME.  If this had been a public school, the administration and Mackinac Center would have held that school up as an example of all that is wrong with public education.  Yet this option has been expanded, why?

 

 

Michigan has 277 charter schools, 75% are for profit, more for profits than any other state.  Of the 138 failing schools 5 are charters. According to the Civic Marshall Plan, Michigan increased its drop out factories by 3 this year.  The percentage of 4th graders reading proficiency decreased from 32% to 31%.  The good news is math proficiency increased from 28% to 31%.  After 18 years of choice why is Michigan not seeing an improvement in academic outcomes?  Why continue down a path that clearly is not working?

 

 

 

The EAA is less than 3 months old, the chancellor that was appointed to oversee the 15 failing schools in this new district, came from Kansas, where there were no academic gains and the curriculum he instituted had to be abandoned and rewritten, it was that poor.  Why does anyone think he is good for Michigan students?   The new bill allows this authority to write his own curriculum. He does not report to the State Superintendent, he reports to the Governor.  What is wrong with the State of Michigan’s curriculum that this new district won’t be held to the same standard?  This is making my head spin.

 

The EAA will not be in charge of academics alone.  They will also be in charge of every school building in the state.  Every district will need to catalogue every district building on a yearly basis.  If one of those buildings becomes empty, it must be maintained at the districts expense in case a charter school would like to use it.  I am reading that this portion of the bill may change.  Meanwhile my question is how does this improve academic outcomes and is this an entitlement program?

 

I have many, many more questions.  But my last question for now is, if this is good sound legislation that is going to improve the education landscape in Michigan, why is nearly every superintendent in the state against it?  Why is the Michigan PTA against this, the Michigan Association of School Administrators, The Michigan Association of School Boards?  If this is the right thing to do why is the House and Senate rushing it through now?  Shouldn’t it be debated and discussed with professional educators from both the private and public school sector? My big question after today is how come Grand Rapids got an exemption from the EAA bill?  The author of the bill is their representative, if it’s good enough for the rest of the state why not Grand Rapids?

 

Please start asking questions of your legislators and the Senate and House Education Committee. Contact information can be found at Michigan.Gov

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Mike A. December 05, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Thank you Ms. Gafa, although you are too kind to the governor and Mr. McClellan and other devious individuals behind this proposal. You are correct that this is an entitlement program for greedy entities looking to steal money from my kids' education and my community's schools The devil is in the details and it is clouded in euphemistic and positive sounding phrases such as "choice," "student empowerment," etc. Throw in the word "freedom" a few times into the bill and one obviously gets more than suspicious as their decription of freedom comes at the expense of my children's education and the schools which help to define the community we all live in. Our schools are great, not perfect but they are great. They would do even better if Lansing didn't keep stripping them of money and siphoning it off to rural schools and these charters who have are not held accountable despite the rhetoric. This funding diversion occurred last year and will likely occur again so that the profiteers can reap more money from the taxpayers. Thank you again Ms. Gafa and please get our public relations person or the superintendent on local tv to speak candidly about this issue!
Chris December 05, 2012 at 10:53 PM
Excellent analysis, Ms. Gafa. Now one question remains--how do we get the governor to listen to well-reasoned opposition to this plan, opposition that is supported by the primarily Republican constituency that constitutes Grosse Pointe? This governor seems particularly isolated. One doesn't even get pro-forma responses to e-mails. Does anyone have useful contacts in the legislature or a way to get the governor's ear?
peter December 06, 2012 at 01:02 AM
Very well stated!
Hasta December 06, 2012 at 03:22 AM
Email and call, email and call, email and call - your legislators and the members of the house and senate education committees. Don't give up. Mandatory school of choice was supposed to be a solid part of the Oxford Plan but it was removed at the last minute...why? Grosse Pointe moms, along with parents in Lake Orion and other Michigan non-choice districts made a long, loud, continuous noise. Snyder's not going to let this go easily. There is tremendous pressure from the for-profit investors to push this through. We have to be insistent, pesky, and annoying in large numbers, and then repeat it all again tomorrow. This is the House education committee. They are the most urgent to call tonight. Leave a message that you are against HB 6004 - it takes about 15 minutes to go through the list. Thank you! Rep. Thomas Hooker (Maj. Vice Chair) (517) 373-2277 Rep. Jon Bumstead (517) 373-7317 Rep. Hugh Crawford (517) 373-0827 Rep. Ray Franz (517) 373-0825 Rep. Kurt Heise (517) 373-3816 Rep. Aric Nesbitt (517) 373-0839 Rep. Margaret O'Brien (517) 373-1774 Rep. Amanda Price (517) 373-0838 Rep. Deb Shaughnessy (517) 373-0853 Rep. Ken Yonker (517) 373-0840
Hasta December 06, 2012 at 03:24 AM
Another very easy way to have emails sent to your legislators every time legislation comes up: Sign up for CapWiz. http://www.capwiz.com/tca4edu/issues/alert/?alertid=62174306#.ULgCU4z76dw.facebook
Hasta December 06, 2012 at 03:26 AM
Follow legislative updates, read messages from more than one hundred superintendents across the state, read op eds from local and national journalists, and more: https://www.facebook.com/SaveMIPublicSchools
MRSPirateLarz December 06, 2012 at 05:19 PM
I know drawing media attention is not always the best route, but for once perhaps attempting to shine a national spotlight on this issue would be a good idea. Point out the glaring opposition to what our elected officials are trying to force us into and perhaps we can goad them into dropping this reform until they have a solid, well thought out plan that might actually work! Beyond that, CALL, WRITE, EMAIL, SHOUT to the elected officials that we do not want this!!!!

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