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Legislative alert: "charter school package" could dramatically undermine our schools

Dear supporters of public education,

Much-anticipated legislation was introduced today that would dramatically reshape the public school landscape in Michigan. We cannot afford to wait and see how the legislative process works itself out - we must start making our voices heard now. Use the Michigan Parents for Schools advocacy system to contact your Senator!

The four-bill package, driven by co-sponsor Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Claire), was just made available to the public today - coinciding with the start of hearings on these bills in the Senate Education committee.

The bills can only be described as an assault on traditional public schools in this state. Based on a preliminary review of the bill texts, the proposed legislation would:
  • remove the overall cap on charter schools in the state;
  • create a new class of charter schools, "conversion schools," which can be created at the instigation of the teachers or parents of a traditional public school;
  • remove limits on the number of recently-introduced "cyber schools;"
  • require school districts to accept non-resident students under "schools of choice" if they have the capacity;
  • allow traditional school districts to privatize their teaching staff (contract with independent organizations to provide classroom teachers rather than employ them directly);
  • ensure that charters and similar schools authorized by public school districts would not be covered by any existing collective bargaining agreements.

The sponsors of the legislation claim that these measures will drive increased achievement in our schools. At MIPFS, we are hard pressed not to see this as an effort to do school reform "on the cheap," thoughtlessly applying the doctrine of competition rather than working to ensure that every school can provide its students with a quality education.

Under the current system, "competition" for students does not drive excellence; it simply steals resources from already-struggling schools. Charter schools, originally a venue for experimentation in education, are now being put forward as the "solution" for those families who have the time and resources to actively support their child's education. Tens of thousands of children who do not have that kind of support system will be left to fend for themselves in declining traditional districts. Communities, instead of joining together in their common commitment to educate their children, will be segmented into multiple educational enclaves - eroding our communities, worsening inequality and encouraging re-segregation.

We will have more details as the days go by. In the meantime, we encourage you to use our advocacy system to let your Senator know how you feel about these proposals!

Steve Norton
Executive Director

Preliminary details on the bills:

SB 618, sponsored by Sen. Pavlov: changes to charter school rules, and teacher hiring for all districts
  • Charter schools:
    • The bill eliminates caps on the number of charters that can be authorized by community colleges and state universities, and removes the geographical restrictions on those authorized by community colleges as well as restrictions on charters inside Detroit Public Schools
    • The bill also removes the requirements that charters authorized by school districts must be part of the same collective bargaining agreements as other school employees
  • Teacher hiring:
    • The bill would allow school districts to contract with outside entities (for-profit corporations, non-profits, labor unions, etc) to provide teachers. By implication, these teachers would only be covered by a collective bargaining agreement if they had negotiated one with the intermediate employer. Teachers hired in this fashion would probably also not be part of the state teacher pensions (MPSERS) system, as is currently the case with charter schools.

SB 619, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton Twp.): changes to "cyber school" rules
  • Bill removes limits on the number of "cyber" schools which can be authorized, and eliminates the original requirement that these school target "urban and at-risk student populations" as well as limits on total enrollment

SB 620, sponsored by Sen. Dave Robertson (R-Grand Blanc): conversion schools
  • Creates a new class of charter schools which are existing traditional public schools being "converted" into a charter
  • A majority of the teachers or parents at a school may ask for such status, and if denied they can petition to place the question on the ballot
  • Conversion schools can receive capital and operating revenues the same as other schools in the district
  • Employees of conversion schools are not covered by existing collective bargaining agreements

SB 621, sponsored by Sen. Geoff Hansen (R-Hart): payment for public services to non-public school students
  • Changes the rules on what districts may provide services to non-public school students; if the local district does not want to provide a service, any other district in the same ISD can provide those services and receive state aid for doing so (had been only contiguous districts).

SB 624, sponsored by Sen. Pavlov: mandatory state-wide schools of choice
  • Requires districts to accept non-resident students under schools of choice, if the district determines that it has available capacity. Removes restrictions on SOC that used to restrict it to within an ISD. Does not change the rule that per-pupil allowance is the lower of original or chosen district.
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