Your Guide to Michigan Education Reform Proposals

Find out what the bills entail, where they are in the legislative process, and the pros and cons.

State House and Senate committees on Wednesday will consider portions of a proposed education reform package that has sparked howls of protest throughout Michigan.

The bills' timing coincides with the waning terms of "lame duck" lawmakers who have only a few weeks left to serve and little to lose by potentially pushing through parts of the controversial legislation that would transform education in Michigan.

Supporters argue underperforming schools and achievement gaps necessitate the reforms, which they say would make students more competitive when they enter college or the work force. But opponents say the measures are moving too quickly, do not provide proper regulations for new schools and would strip communities of control over their local districts and instead put the power in the hands of corporations and the state.

To help readers make sense of the proposals, Patch has put together a handy tutorial on the education reform package.

What's on the table

(See the attached PDFs to review the full bills.)

House bill 6004 and Senate bill 1358: The bills require a survey of all public school buidlings and empower the state Educational Achievement Authority to make decisions about how to use vacant buildings currently under the control of local school districts. On Wednesday, the House Education Committee will consider bill 6004 and the Senate Education Committee will discuss bill 1358.

House bill 5923: The bill would issue special designations for single-gender, online and "globally competitive" schools, the latter of which could recruit students from anywhere in the world. International students would pay tuition to attend Michigan public schools. The bill also lets employers sponsor public schools. It is awaiting a hearing in the House Education Committee.

Michigan Public Education Finance Act: Gov. Rick Snyder commissioned the draft measure that was created by the Oxford Foundation, an educational think tank. The 302-page proposal would replace the School Aid Act of 1979, which determines how public schools are funded. The draft measure allows students to choose which district they attend; permits per-pupil funding splits so students can attend more than one district; expands online learning; provides $2,500 per semester to students who graduate early, up to $10,000; and converts the school year to an all-year configuration. It is available to review at oxfordfoundationmi.com. The draft bill is expected to be introduced as part of Snyder's budget presentation in February, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Pros and cons

“I think it will potentially drive real change for better learning. So, in that respect, if you believe schools are not doing a very good job today and you believe they do a better job afterward, then yes, it could be disruptive for some people’s careers. People spent as much time analyzing the reforms as they spend with rhetoric." – Lansing attorney Richard McLellan who drafted the Michigan Public Education Finance Act on mlive.com

"These bills set the stage for a complete corporate takeover of our public schools, and the Michigan Public Education Finance Act represents the 'final nail in the coffin' and death of Michigan's public school system. In a nutshell: Our public schools will not be public anymore. They will be controlled by Wall Street." – Rep. Ellen Lipton

[Leave a comment to share your opinion about the propsoals!]

GP For Life November 28, 2012 at 10:12 PM
I would hedge any long Grosse Pointe real estate position with a long Harbor Springs position, as flight northward would result. Seriously, does anyone not see this as a total assault on our community? This all spells great news for private schools. Why can't people just accept that their questionable-to-poor breeding has left them doomed to poverty and ignorance? No amount of head starts and government cheese will allow these cretins to be my equal. Why do we have to bailout failing schools who have failed because of freely elected leadership they themselves elected? Seriously, the only aptitude any of these people have shown is their ability to remain ignorant. Not me. I am GP For Life and I will send a message to Lansing. You have to lay in the bed you make.
Christopher Profeta November 29, 2012 at 12:35 AM
In theory, schools of choice is a not so bad idea. All students should have access to the same high quality education. But these bills, especially the Michigan Public Education Finance Act, will actually give all people access to the same low quality education by diverting money away from schools. If you want to fix public education, the answers are simple; support students and families by supporting their teachers and schools. These bills seem designed to punish them.
Mark November 29, 2012 at 02:57 AM
Christopher a lot of things are good in theory and work horribly in practice. Access to quality education isn't te problem for many of the people who would flood into our town and destroy our community. It is a fundamental lack of respect for education and lack of literacy.
Diane Smith November 29, 2012 at 12:03 PM
Home schooling is the answer, just add bars to the windows.
Christopher Profeta November 29, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Mark, I agree that these reforms are damaging to cities and throughout Michigan. Public Education is clearly best handled at the local level. The problem in other districts is not that there isn't enough state involvement, it's that too often schools and teachers are villified as the problem. Who suffers when teachers aren't respected? Students. If you want to reform the system in a way that doesn't dismantle everything that is good about it, most noteably, local control of schools, we should be working to expand preschool programs, provide all students the opportunity to earn a post-secondary degree, and incorporate blended online learning. These ideas would not only help Grosse Pointe students, but students across Michigan.
GP For Life November 29, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Mr. Profeta: You can't fix willful ignorance. That's what we have in many communities today. They belong to an underclass of people who subsist on the productivity of others. They believe they're entitled to some basic standard of living that while sad and pathetic in our view is still higher than most of the world. They believe that all they should have to do to maintain this entitlement is to breed prodigiously. I don't subscribe to this mentality of failure and I want our leaders of tomorrow (Grosse Pointe South graduates) to be quarantined from this abject failure of a philosophy.
Mark November 29, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Christopher you have to look to GP's comments. While some might find them offensive and distasteful these are the truths we should all hold self evident. We are not all created equal and when large swaths of communities are held back by their own shortcomings nothing the state or local systems can do will change it. It's an absolute shame that people in this country prefer to cater to the masses instead of recognizing there is a Thinking Class of people who should not be held hostage by the illiterate and feckless.
GP For Life November 29, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Chris: I understand what an important job teachers do. I love and appreciate them for it, but to say they bear no responsibility for the attitudes of the underclass and the failure to educate them correctly, is nonsense. The fact is all students have the opportunity to earn a post-secondary degree. It's just that they have to graduate and be able to read at the same time. There's pleanty of opportunity in this country but no one wants to sacrafice to achieve. If you asked all the people in the underclass if they wanted to make what a bulge bracket investment banker makes and they'll say yes. If you ask them if they want to work the hours and pay the sacrafices they'll say no. We don't need more entitlements, we need less.
Christopher Profeta November 29, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Well, as a Grosse Pointe North graduate, I agree with you 100% that Grosse Pointe schools are among the finest in the country, and do in fact produce high quality leaders of tomorrow. And I agree that the Republican lawmakers in Lansing who want to dismantle the system that produced these schools are wrong. At the state level, however, I think you are wrong in your assertion that our leaders should simply write of an entire segment of the population who are struggling and want some assistance to get ahead. It's that mentality that doomed Conservatives at the national level just a few weeks ago. Governor Snyder and his allies in the legislatiure should be looking for ways to fix struggling schools, not harm successful ones. On that, I believe we are in agreement.
Christopher Profeta November 29, 2012 at 03:31 PM
One last point that I think is important to make. The leaders of struggling districts such as Detroit Public Schools are as suspicious of a state and corporate take over of public schools as you and I are here in GP.
Christopher Profeta November 29, 2012 at 03:50 PM
If you want to call education an entitlement, then I agree with you completely. We are all entitled to an education. That's a fundamental belief this country has shared since its inception, and it is why my grandfather chose to send his kids to GPPS instead of private schools, it's why my mother chose to become a teacher and send her children to GPPS, it's why I became a community college teacher and, when my children are old enough, will also proudly send them to GPPS. If, in fact, the problem with struggling school districts is the quality of their teachers, then why don't we fix that problem? The reason is not politics or unions or anything else, it is that even politicians secretly recognize that teachers are not the problem with public education. And when they are supported with the tools and resources they need, students succeed and families thrive.
L B Brown November 29, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Wow. Well busing killed Detroit. This will kill Grosse Pointe, Birmingham, etc...
GP For Life November 29, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Chris, in most fields when you fail and don't take responsibility for the failure and blame it on things outside your control, you're given a pass for the first time and maybe the second. Eventually though, you're fired.
Christopher Profeta November 29, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Three quick points: I am in no way suggesting that teachers have failed. By and large, they do an amazing job with the resources they are provided. Here in Grosse Pointe, teachers are supported with many of the tools they need to do their jobs, and the results are clear. In other districts, teachers are not supported as they should be, and the results there are clear as well. Second, the point that in the corporate sector people are fired when they do a poor job is patently incorrect. Wall Street bankers and CEO's tanked our economy by engaging in practices that were too risky and, in many cases, illegal. As a result, they were given golden parachuttes and buy outs. Lastly, I think we should remain focused on that fact that people like you and me are in agreement that Governor Snyder's proposed education reforms would be a disaster.
Chad Bateman November 29, 2012 at 05:00 PM
I don't know your true identity GP, but you are by far the best commenter on this site. While others may find your comments offensive and crude, I find them concise and well written. You speak the truth, which a lot of people can not handle. We need you to become mayor.
GP For Life November 29, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Chris: Point 1: Why can't you just accept that we excel while other flounder because of our innate superiority derived from both nature and nurture? Point 2: Meh. There are too many examples in both instances of us being correct. While class warfare seems to be all the rage these days, until you've been on the street, you'll never know the pressure to perform. Point 3: Hell yeah.
RoseMarie Doles November 29, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Thank God for people like Chris Profeta and his parents and grandparents.
Chris K November 29, 2012 at 05:55 PM
I am not sure I see how that happens in the communities you mention because they won't be forced schools of choice or open enrollment. Families can continue to choose a school district in a community. While schools are an important part of any community the value system and structure of any community has many more facets than schools and I think only about 20% of Grosse Pointe residents actually have children who are enrolled in the public schools.
GP For Life November 29, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Thank you, Chad. I appreciate your compliments, though oftentimes I am far less concise than I would like to be. While it is likely that we may know each other I must keep my true identity secret till my legions have massed and we're ready to storm the fortress of mediocrity.
L B Brown November 29, 2012 at 07:15 PM
I agree that teachers are not the problem. Schools always reflect the community that they are in. Pay attention. This forces school of choice on every school district in the state and totally destroys local control over the school systems. GPPS you are the new DPS no matter how you slice it. So much for small government Republicans. State control over schools = destruction of all local community. Does anyone really want to give this much power to the state? Instead of competing school districts we will have a centralized colossus of incompetence in Lancing running and ruining our schools.
GP For Life November 29, 2012 at 07:19 PM
They do such a good job with the roads I am sure they can spruce up our school...
Nancy Z. November 29, 2012 at 07:27 PM
GP, I tried to respond to one of your earlier posts, but somehow wasn't able to... You wrote: "The fact is all students have the opportunity to earn a post-secondary degree." That's not always true--and sometimes their school districts are the ones standing in the way of the students. I have a friend whose daughter will graduate from DPS this year. The girl worked hard, earned good grades, and she has been accepted at EMU, but her college education is in jeopardy...because DPS will not release her transcripts to the university, despite repeated attempts and continuous pressure from the student and her family. When I applied to college *mumble-mumble* years ago, this was such a non-issue that at this point, I don't even remember how I got my transcripts released from my high school to my chosen university. It was a non-event--as it should be. When you live in a good school district where administrators, teachers, and other employees can be counted on to do their jobs, you come to take that for granted. It never occurs to you that incompetence, laziness, or bureaucratic red tape might be obstacles for people in a struggling or failing school district. But these things are indeed obstacles, and the people paying for it the most are the kids. It's not right to blame them for this problem, and just claim that they had access to post-secondary education and just didn't try hard enough. It's not true.
GP For Life November 29, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Nancy: First, I have a hard time believing that you couldn't just go down to the school and employ some "wall-to-wall counseling" techniques to speed the process along. However, if this is in fact as egregious as you portray, then I don't see the solution to be giving these people more assets to manage. When they can't even manage simple office drones to complete simple tasks like "their jobs" then why would I trust them to educate our children? Yeah, I think not. In any event, your friend's experience saddens me.
Mark November 29, 2012 at 09:42 PM
Chris K don't be so quick to dismiss the destruction this could cause. There is serious blight surrounding GP and this strengthens the creep. Creep kills my friend. The residents of Indian Village in 1926 probably couldn't even fathom the community that exists (or doesn't exist) today. Do you have a source for that percentage of GP families? That doesn't seem plausible but I have heard stranger things.
Nancy Z. November 30, 2012 at 01:15 AM
GP, no, I don't think throwing money at the problem is the answer. This is a complex problem, and it requires complex solutions. Think about the things we take for granted as residents of an outstanding school district, that a parent with children in DPS cannot: It's safe for our kids to walk or bike to school. The school buildings and other infrastructure owned by the district are safe and in good condition, up to code, etc. Our children have enough textbooks for everyone to have a book (and get to take it home to study!). Our children have reasonable class sizes. Our children's teachers have school supplies for the entire class. Our children have a variety of classes to accommodate their needs and interests. Our children are safe at school. Our school administrators and guidance counselors will help our children along the path to a college education. Our school guidance counselors and social workers will help identify "at-risk" children and get them help. Our school will identify and assist children who have learning disabilities so they don't fall behind in their schoolwork. That's just off the top of my head. Some people on here have said, "Hey, you've made your bed, now lie in it!" but the people lying in that bed aren't the ones who made this mess. They are CHILDREN.
L B Brown November 30, 2012 at 02:21 AM
Yes. And the Devil does not show up and say her am I. He says women and children first, consider the poor, then leads all to their destruction. Nancy you bit the apple and now think that the only way to save DPS students is to punish GPPS students for having parents that expect them to become self reliant and value education. When you deny the consequence of actions and choice in ones life, you have denied God's corrective hand in their life. They then devolve in every manner, spiritually, ethically, morally, etc... i.e. everything that is wrong with Detroit. Detroit's demise is the result of its own hate, its own bigotry, its own self-loathing, and inability to forgive transgressions of the past, manifest in the person of Colman A. Young. My personal success and GPPS's for that matter does not cause DPS to fail. That belongs to Detroit and Detroit alone. So long as Detroit cannot be self critical by blaming others for its choices, it can never NEVER improve its situation. Till they forgive they are condemned to become that which they hate. "They have made their own bed" and make their own children lay in it.
Mark November 30, 2012 at 02:46 AM
LB I am with you except for the churchy parts.
Nancy Z. November 30, 2012 at 01:59 PM
LB, where in the world did you get the idea that I want to "punish GPPS students"? I haven't even proposed anything of the sort. Don't put words in my mouth. Now that you mention it, though, the suburbs have had a hand in Detroit's demise. Many suburbanites fail to realize that as Detroit goes, so goes our region. If Detroit sinks, we're going down right alongside that ship. We have to stop this "us vs. them" mentality. BTW, I'm *NOT* in favor of forcing GPPS or other districts to participate in schools of choice. I think that would be detrimental everybody--including DPS and its students--in the long run.
L B Brown December 01, 2012 at 02:26 AM
Nancy, you did not have to say it. Altruism toward those who take no responsibility for the outcome of their own lives always leads to the punishment of the successful, the achiever, the ambitious. The Romans most cruel form of execution was to chain a corps to you, then let the decay of that body work its way into you till it killed you. This is what the governor intends for GPPS. Well Nancy I don't know where you have been but Detroit isn't sinking, its sunk. The suburbs had nothing to do with it, it sank itself. And I have no desire to be chained to its corps.
Hasta December 01, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Please do not just discuss this. Take action. Call/write/email your legislators and the governor's office. Call/write/email the heads of the committees and the majority leaders in the house and senate. An easy way to do this is to sign up for CapWiz, run by the TriCounty Alliance of school superintendents, which will send you emails when legislation is looming and with a few clicks, will send your email response (prewritten, if you choose) to the appropriate legislators. http://www.tricountyalliance.org/home


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »