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Grosse Pointe Woods Council Approves Resolution to Oppose Schools of Choice Mandate

In a move to be proactive and send a clear, early message to Gov. Rick Snyder, Grosse Pointe Woods council unanimously agreed to a resolution Monday opposing the implementation of a Schools of Choice mandate.

A resolution unanimously adopted and certified Monday by city council opposing the Schools of Choice mandate as outlined by Gov. Rick Snyder will be sent to his office this week. 

The intent with passing a resolution to oppose the proposed plan as one of Snyder's many measures to reform education is to send the message of opposition early, Mayor Robert Novitke said. 

Superintendent C. Suzanne Klein attended Monday's council meeting along with two women spearheading a grassroots group trying to oppose the mandate, Katharine Barr and Lynn Jacobs.

The women are both Grosse Pointers who are not necessarily against Schools of Choice as it is used now. Currently school districts are able to opt in or opt out and, if they opt in, they determine the parameters of how it will be used in their district.

The group they are spearheading, Michigan Communities for Local Control, is aiming to take action against the movement in Lansing and is trying to garner support from schools across the state--both those that participate in Schools of Choice currently and those that do not, they said. 

Gaining support from the local governments is important as well, they said, explaining how pleased they are that the Woods passed the resolution. 

Novitke emphasized how important he believes it is for the communty to maintain control over its schools, noting the spending differences per pupil in the Grosse Pointe Schools as well as the amount of fundraising and other efforts by residents to benefit the students.

"I want Lansing to know right away," Novitke said.

He noted the response he received about the , which was that it was submitted too late.

The division of the state house districts was officially opposed by all of the Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods as well as by local political party leaders and residents. Despite numerous requests for the bill calling for the division to be vetoed the . The entire redistricting bill process was speedier than the usual schedule, according to Rep. Tim Bledsoe (D-Grosse Pointe), who questioned why it was being rushed through the system.

The handling of that particular bill is in part why the Michigan Communities for Local Control group is trying to take action rather than waiting until a bill surfaces, Barr said. 

She questions the timing of the bill, which she was told by a legislative assistant from Sen. Phil Pavlov's (R-St. Clair Township) office could be introduced to the Senate Education Committee as early as Sept. 7--the same day most Michigan children will start the next school year. She described the decision to divide the house districts as a "middle of the night decision" and believes implementing Schools of Choice will further dilute the voice of the Grosse Pointes. 

The fight, Barr said, is for all schools--not just those who do not participate in Schools of Choice. Of course the group is gaining momentum and support from those districts that have not opted into the program but their focus is maintaining local control even for those are currently using Schools of Choice, Barr said. Those districts want to maintain the control they have over implementing it, such as determining capacity, determing eligibility, determining enrollment timeframes and more, she said.

Novitke said in preparation for the meeting, he had contacted the mayors from Grosse Pointe Park, Grosse Pointe Farms and the City of Grosse Pointe--all of whom he said agreed with the resolution. He is still planning to contact the mayors of Grosse Pointe Shores and Harper Woods, he said. 

Meanwhile, Bledsoe has . Although it's not often, public hearings are sometimes held away from Lansing when a particular topic is likely to impact a specific community, Bledsoe previously told Patch.

Patch is awaiting a return phone call from Pavlov's office regarding the invitation and more information about the formation of a draft of the bill. 

Bledsoe is also holding Aug. 22 to discuss Schools of Choice with constiuents. 

Tonja Stapleton August 16, 2011 at 11:30 AM
Local control is local control. Why did Detroiters resent Robert Bobb so much? Because he represented loss of local control! I am not naive enough to believe racism does not exist but I resent those who would focus on race instead of our childrens' education. If you think that GPW is the most racist city in Michigan, you obviously do not live here or know any people of color that proudly call this place home (Is Urface a real name or a divisive alias?)
LMJ August 16, 2011 at 12:24 PM
John, our issue is solely to do with this legislation and how it could take away a school districts ability to make educational choices for the children in each, community- We oppose this in a large way for what it will do in other districts, leaving school boards even less ability to lead the way on issues like classroom sizes, curriculum, and any one of the many things that should be decided locally, not in Lansing. There are some communities, like the Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods that, if you're not from here, unfortunately you don't know that it is a warm, inclusive community of people who truly want the best for ALL of the kids in our schools- that is what the MCLC is fighting for. We hope to get the support of other communities that value their ability to elect a school board and make their voice heard that way, and not be taken over by distant Lansing and have to run their schools based on the ideals of a distant bureaucracy.
Mike Buckley August 16, 2011 at 12:34 PM
Mr Urface are you just tiring the pot or are you really not to educated. From my experience as a former police officer for both DPD and GP I can assure you that SOC would not ONLY have an effect on GPPSS but the entire community. May I remind you the GP community has been subjected to shootings all around us - including two at St Johns and two at Eastland Mall. That out of the 13 shooting that DPD had last weekend (YES 24 hr period) that two were school related and one was committed by a 15 yr old. Since 2006 housing has dropped 40 - 50% don't you think if SOC was to happen that the GP housing market would continue to slid even further. Believe me if we had 100 students like Gen Powell (Sec of State - Bush Admin) a product of a public school education who grew up in the south Bronx I would welcome them with open arms. That students of that caliber would set the MEAP so much higher that GPPSS would be the best public school in the country. Unfortunately, i do not believe this will be the case. I had the opportunity to speak with well educated black HS student last week at Barnes and he told me his Mom would not allow him to attend GP North do to the current problems so he attends De Laselle. That he knew of a white student that attended GPN who had track marks and shoots himself up with heroin (HEROIN - HS Student) - so no its not a race issue its about maintaining a great community for our children their friends and our families.
LMJ August 16, 2011 at 01:14 PM
As Tonja put so well, it would be naive to suggest there aren't those out there that could certainly evolve more in their thinking- those people in no way represent or participate in the MCLC, or our larger mission. We are focused on a positive campaign that is fighting for ALL children, in ALL communities, who will be affected negatively by this legislation or any legislation that takes local control away from individual communities, and concentrates that power in far-away Lansing
Kelly Fordon August 16, 2011 at 01:50 PM
If Grosse Pointe can opt in or out of the proposal and set its own parameters then I am unclear about how this will negatively impact the community. I am worried that Grosse Pointe will be viewed as isolationist and that our motivation will be seen as racist. I don’t think moving to oppose this legislation is in our best interest. The people who would be opting into our schools are not criminals; they are parents who want a good education for their children. The larger issue here is the disparity between the educational options people have on one side of Mack versus the other side. How can that be OK? Frankly, it’s embarrassing. Do we really want to send the message to our children that no one else matters but our own community? That what is happening in Detroit has nothing to do with us and we should turn our backs? I am worried that by so stridently opposing this legislation we as a community may be sending that message to our neighbors. Instead of focusing our energy on combating this particular proposal, we should send the message to Lansing that we want equal opportunity for all students throughout the state of Michigan.
LMJ August 16, 2011 at 02:20 PM
Kelly, this is about allowing communities to establish their own criteria for School of Choice- mandating it for all districts will surely lead to those districts not being able to set criteria, which will be terrible for ALL children. As far as the idea that any public school district is exclusive, its just not true. All communities with great schools have plenty of opportunities- homes and apartments for rent in the Grosse Pointe's and Harper Woods afford families who are dedicated to their child's education an opportunity to have access to whatever educational setting they feel is best. The position of the MCLC is that ALL children deserve to have access to the best education, and with Lansing legislating all choice away from local districts, that won't be possible.
Kathy Abke August 16, 2011 at 03:02 PM
Kelly, I agree with your big picture insight. School of Choice is not Evil. The issue here is the new bill will NOT allow districts to opt out. The bill (being written in secret, btw) may or may not pre-determine class size (likely forcing GP to increase class size, which is not good for anyone.) Currently schools participating in SOC must accept children by lottery (not based on behavior, or any criteria.) Some districts have success with the program, but many do not. Districts stand to lose control over how they educate. GP operates at the standards it does because of what it does control (class size, as one example, and per student spending.) Currently GP spends about $10, 000 per student. $7000 comes from the state and $3000 from the community. Students coming from a mandated SOC will bring with them the $7000 from the state. Presently, participating districts can charge participating families the difference. The new bill may not allow districts to continue to do that. If that's the case, there will be less dollars per student overall, limiting resources for everyone. These are just some of the concerns. Until the new bill is introduced, it's impossible to address specifics. You are correct that there are fear based reactions here that mimic racism (fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of loss of control.) This can make the opposition appear isolationist. There are, however, valid concerns about loss of control. Hope that helps.
Mike Buckley August 16, 2011 at 03:18 PM
WOW - Kelly - At least your heart is in the right place. May I ask you 1. Do you have children in the GPPSS? 2. Does your Husband agree with your heart felt feelings? Its all good until something unfortunate effects one of your own children - Isn't it Moms?
Mike Buckley August 16, 2011 at 03:19 PM
BASED UPON DEMOGRAPHICS SOC WILL NOT WORK FOR GPPSS OR THE GP COMMUNITY.
LMJ August 16, 2011 at 03:26 PM
Kathy, very well said. As said previously, there will always be a small minority of people whose ignorance will be used as a means to characterize an entire community. At MCLC, we hope that the ignorance of the few is trumped by the larger voice of rational, engaged citizens who want what's best for all of our young people, which is certainly the focus of the MCLC. There is no room in education for intolerance, ignorance, or divisiveness.
Juliet Stanley August 16, 2011 at 03:31 PM
ALL children deserve a quality education and they should not have to "escape" from their neighborhood school to receive it! Education starts the moment a child is born. The crucial years before attending school set the foundation for success. Sending students away from their neighborhood schools will only increase the challenges they are already facing. The rebuilding of failing districts must start many years before the children walk through the doors of a school. The schools are a reflection of what is happening in the communites where they are located. ALL of the successes and/or failures do not lie in the hands of the school alone. Parents, teachers, and communities working together that value education and have common goals set produce intelligent, articulate, high performing students. Every community needs to figure out which link(s) need improvement and work together to be successful. Running away from any problem does not fix the problem, in fact, it usually makes it worse.
Amy Graham August 16, 2011 at 09:13 PM
I agree that EVERY child deserves and has a right to an excellent education. Ok Moms- GET OUT THERE AND VOLUNTEER in the DPS if you want to help! There is an excellent reading program that needs your help! Volunteer to mentor or tutor a child, or become a foster or adoptive parent to the 3,000 + kids living in Wayne County who need a home. Let's fight the battle that way- NOT by ching the GPPublic Schools. We are NOT broken, and we do not the resources, as an institution to take on the problems of every other district.
Rick August 17, 2011 at 01:50 AM
Kelly, Your heart is in the right place. This is not about if we can opt out or not. Rigth now we can opt out and that is exactly the point. We as a community should be able to decide this. These decisions need to be made for all of the taxpayers of a community. This is not a state decision. It is not EMBARRISING that I worked several jobs and saved a ton of money with my wife to buy a house in this community only to see it's value decease because the federal government decided more and more people should be home owners. Now I want to protect the eroding value of my home by protecting what we were buying. A great school system that will support the children of the community, not the sqare mieage surronding the community.

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