Submitted by Steven Norton on Wed, 09/28/2011 - 3:57pm
The Senate Education Committee is voting on a package of bills that would lift the cap on charter schools in Michigan and make other changes that threaten the health of our local school districts and our system of public education. The full Senate might vote on the bills very soon thereafter.
The legislation - a package of seven bills - covers a great deal of ground. But it is pretty easy to sum them up: the bills assume that traditional public schools and their teachers are the problem, and that more charter schools and less community involvement is the answer.
It's critical that all of us who support public education in Michigan tell our Senators that these bills are not the answer to improving public education in our state! Please use MIPFS's legislative action center to send a message to your Senate.
We have described the bills, and our concerns, in more detail in our Legislative Briefing on this bill package; please read the document by clicking here. But here is an overview:
The bills would:
- Remove the current caps on the number of charter schools, including so-called "cyber" schools that do no face-to-face teaching;
- Permit a majority of the parents at a regular public school to vote to convert the school to a charter if it is on the state's list of failing schools (the so-called "parent trigger");
- Permit local school districts to contract out instructional services (in other words, privatize teaching);
- Remove any requirements that charters sponsored by public school districts, or teachers hired through an outside entity, be covered by existing collective bargaining agreements.
Our objections? They are fairly basic:
- Our public schools are not failing everywhere. Where our schools need assistance, we should be committing public resources and community effort to strengthening those schools. Instead, the expansion of charter schools simply fragments our public education and hollows out our traditional school districts.
- Charter schools are not a magic bullet. The majority of charter schools do not perform better than the traditional public schools that serve their students, and a significant fraction do worse.
- The bills would simply create many small educational enclaves, accessible only to families with the resources to seek out and take advantage of alternatives. Other children would be left behind in districts that continue to face funding cuts.
- The bills' hostility to public school teachers and collective bargaining agreements has little to do with educational improvement but says a great deal about the priorities of the legislation's supporters.
At the very least, we feel strongly that any entities that manage charter schools, or that provide instructional services to schools, must be non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations. Charter schools have strayed far beyond their original intent. Originally conceived as laboratories of educational innovation that could offer new ideas for public schools, charter schools in Michigan have become profit centers for privately-held for-profit charter management companies. (Michigan has more charters managed by private, for-profit firms than any other state.)
We cannot justify allowing any group to profit on the backs of our children. Insisting on non-profit status would ensure that all public funds would go to educate our children and would also ensure that the books of such organizations were open to public inspection.
These bills are not truly aimed at improving education. Our public schools can offer choices and can take advantage of greater flexibility to deliver a richer and more individualized education to every child.
Ask your Senators to set these bills aside and instead focus on making sure our regular public schools have the resources and support to improve education! Click here to take action now!