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Draft of Schools of Choice Mandate Shared with Michigan Legislators

Sen. Phil Pavlov introduced the draft Wednesday to the Michigan Legislature, which if passed would require all public schools throughout the state to participate in the Schools of Choice program.

The much-anticipated legislation has been introduced as part of a larger package of bills that are slated as educational reform by Gov. Rick Snyder.

Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair) introduced Senate Bill 624 Wednesday to the Michigan Legislature. The bill has been referred to the Committee on Education.

The committee is likely to have public hearings on the drafted bill and it will have to be passed by both the Senate and the House before being introduced to Snyder for his final stamp of approval. 

Additionally, Schools of Choice is part of a package of five drafted bills and its passage is contingent upon the passage of the other four. Those include Senate Bills 618, 619, 620 and 621, which seek to amend laws related to charter schools, to privatize teachers, cyber schools and school aid funding. 

Schools of Choice is a program that public school districts currently may opt in or out of that allows out-of-district students to enroll. Under the current system, districts have control over how to implement the program and to whom they want to offer the opportunity to enroll.

Senate Bill 624 essentially edits 1979 Public Act 94 that allowed public schools the option to invite out-of-district students to enroll in their district. 

One of the biggest concerns among officials and parents for has been the issue of capacity, which was discussed at length .

The draft of the newly introduced bill calls for local districts to determine their own capacity—wording that is likely a surprise to many Grosse Pointe officials. 

Rep. Tim Bledsoe (D-Grosse Pointe) previously told Patch that if supporters want to truly make Schools of Choice a mandate, the bill would need to have specific parameters for determining capacity. Otherwise, he had said, districts would be able to effectively not participate by limiting capacity to the in-district enrollment figures.

Bledsoe has been actively campaigning against Schools of Choice and has been gathering feedback from residents through a survey about such a program.  

Although the district would still be determining capacity, the bill outlines a specific time frame in which it must be completed. According to the draft, the capacity for each grade, school and special program would be determined no later than the second Friday in August.

If there were seats open beyond those students in the district, districts would then be required to publish a list of the open seats by grades, schools and special programs.

Out-of-district students, which are limited to students within Michigan, would have 15 to 30 days to apply and the district would be required to notify those admitted no later than by the end of the first week of school. Districts will also be required to maintain a waiting list if there are more applicants than available seats. 

If enrollment changes before the school year begins or within the first week, districts must admit out-of-district students from the waiting list. If there are more open seats than those on the waiting list, and the district receives more applications further into the school year, the district may wait to enroll the student until the next semester or trimester.

Late last week, Grosse Pointe School Board member Brendan Walsh told Patch the local efforts to fight mandated Schools of Choice as a matter of removing local control from local districts has had an impact. He said originally the bill was to be introduced a few weeks ago but was delayed likely because of the amount of attention the topic has been getting.

Evaluating the mandate should be much easier for officials and state legislators now that there is a draft of the bill. Up to now, officials have found themselves unable to answer questions by parents and residents because the specified language was not available. 

George R. McMullen Jr. September 08, 2011 at 10:36 AM
I encourage any interested citizen in education to go to a web site of Michigan Communities for Local Control www.miclc.com . The site is dedicated to these educational issues and bills. I thank Grosse Pointe patch for its quick reporting on the bills that I believe they have the potential to change not only the community and culture of Grosse Pointe, but many communities statewide.
Kathy Abke September 08, 2011 at 01:12 PM
I agree - Patch does a fantastic job of covering local issues thoroughly and quickly! Keep up the good work!

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