Schools of Choice Legislation Stalls in Committee

The legislation seeking to make Schools of Choice mandatory for all public districts in Michigan is, at least for now, stuck in committee and not making progress.

The senate bill introduced to the Senate Education Committee in early September that sought to all Michigan public school districts has seemingly stalled.

Originally tie-barred with four other bills also seeking changes to Michigan education, Senate Bill 624 remains in committee, Rep. Tim Bledsoe said. The other bills have been separated and begun their way through the legislature for passage--a good sign Bledsoe says, that Schools of Choice is not likely moving forward.

The of many Grosse Pointers--officials as well as parents. Superintendent Suzanne Klein, School Board Trustee Judy Gafa and parent Kathryn Barr testified before the Senate Committee for Education opposing it.

Barr along with parent Lynn Jacobs also , which quickly gained attention not only from Grosse Pointers but from districts and supporters throughout Michigan. The group's focus was to oppose Lansing's removal of local control not the idea of Schools of Choice. The group hired a lobbyist to fight for their position in Lansing.

Each of the Grosse Pointe opposing the mandate.

Historically, officials from Grosse Pointe Public Schools have opted out of the Schools of Choice program. While they do not participate, the current law allows each district to implement on their own terms. Some allow it for children of employees but no others while others allow it for anyone who wants to apply.

Although the bill's progress through the legislative process seems to have come to a halt, Bledsoe is definitely still keeping watch of it. He said the bill could still come out of committee and be introduced for passage before the House and the Senate.

Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair) is the sponsor of the bill and he is refusing to give up on it, Bledsoe said, noting the importance the topic was given by Gov. Rick Snyder as part of his education reform plans.

"I'm keeping an eye on it," Bledsoe said. "You never can tell in Lansing. You think things are dead, then suddenly there is movement."

Not only is the lack of progress good news for but also for districts throughout Michigan, Bledsoe said, highlighting the local control aspect.

The bill sought to require all public school districts to have borderless enrollment, meaning schools would have to admit out-of-district students until reaching capacity. School officials throughout the state questioned how capacity would be determined and to really make it effective, the bill would have to define capacity and how it is determined.

The lack of progress means school districts will retain control over how to implement the program if they so choose. That is unless it does eventually come out of committee.

The other bills originallly packaged together with Schools of Choice are not necessarily a direct concern to the Grosse Pointe Public School District, Bledsoe said, but some are a concern to education in general.

One in particular makes it much easier for cyber schools to be established, Bledsoe said. He fears such schools could be misused and/or the creators could abuse their power in establishing the schools.

He is also not a supporter of the bill that removes the cap on the number of charter schools.

Meanwhile, Bledsoe's , called Local Schools Bill of Rights, remains at bay. Bledsoe described it as a disuasion tool on Schools of Choice.

The bill has not been approved to be discussed in committee--the first step in the legislative process. Bledsoe said he was always doubtful it would move through the entire process but felt it was a good tool in the Schools of Choice argument.

Bledsoe will continue using it as a tool and re-energize his focus on the Bill of Rights bill if the Schools of Choice bill suddenly comes out of committee.

Kathy Abke November 14, 2011 at 06:08 PM
Thank you, Patch, for keeping us informed.


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