Members of the State Board of Education have scheduled more of their Education Forums across Michigan. Those who have attended the earlier ones say that they are very interesting and well worth making the time to go. Check out the list to find an upcoming event near you!
Wednesday, April 24, Traverse City, 5:30-7:30 pm.
Education Forum, West Middle School, 3950 Silver Lake Road, Traverse City, MI. Sponsored by League of Women Voters of Grand Traverse Area, and Traverse City Area Public Schools, Contact: Donna Hornberger, dsh_44 (at) yahoo.com
Just before going on their two week spring break, the legislature moved along two key pieces of education legislation.
Two critical bills moved forward in the state House over the last few weeks. They will both have important effects on our public schools, but in different ways:
- The House Appropriations subcommittee on School Aid passed a revised version of the Governor’s school aid budget proposal that maintains the same level of spending but actually increases the effective per-pupil cut for most districts.
- The House Education Committee reported out the EAA expansion bill on a mostly party-line vote, and the bill passed the full House just before the break after frantic lobbying by EAA supporters.
In his budget presentation to the State Legislature, Gov. Rick Snyder billed the education portion as making an investment in Michigan. He described increased spending on preschool – a good thing – and efforts to limit the costs of the public school employee pension system – the burden of which falls mostly on current and future retirees. But he also claimed that the state government had increased spending on K-12 education by 11% over the last four years, including his new proposal. He even had a slide to “illustrate” the point.
Now, with the Governor’s focus on being a “nerd,” and the budget materials all identifying him as a Certified Public Accountant as well as Governor, you might think that all these numbers pretty much reflect reality. But as we have learned over the last decade, to our cost, financial numbers can be “massaged” to tell different stories depending on the audience.
Gov. Snyder, CPA, was engaged in a litte bit of what they call “earnings management.” A closer look at K-12 spending shows a different, and more accurate, picture. We need to keep the true picture in mind as we discuss the performance of our public schools.
MIPFS reaction to the Oxford Foundation school funding proposal, 14 December 2012
Earlier this year, Gov. Snyder asked Lansing attorney and longtime political operative Richard McLellan to lead an effort to re-write the School Aid Act, the basic law that spells out how K-12 education is funded in Michigan. The approach that emerged was a radical change in direction, one that put the focus on students acquiring bits of knowledge from multiple “providers” rather than helping communities build and govern their local schools. More information on the proposal can be found at the Oxford Foundation web site. We’ll cover this proposal in more detail in an upcoming article.
Public comment was requested on the proposal. Our conclusion was that the proposed legislation would take Michigan in precisely the opposite direction of where we need to go.
Well, it's back. Last Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Lisa Lyons introduced the new version of the "EAA bill" - that is, a bill which would make the Educational Achievement Authority a permanent state school district and expand its authority greatly. Rep. Lyons (R-Alto), who also chairs the House Education committee, then scheduled hearings on the bill (HB 4369) for the following day. As a result, those of us who hoped to speak up about the bill had less than 24 hours to read the 60 page document and draft our reactions.
But many of us, including MIPFS, did just that; I was fortunate to be able to actually testify on behalf of parent advocates across the state.
But why should all Michigan parents be concerned about the EAA? After all, it's only for those "failing" schools, right?
I think there are two important reasons.
- If you think this won't affect you, think again. Expanding the EAA is a central part of a larger effort to undermine local public schools, as we saw last fall.
- Most importantly, how can any of us stand by while state takeover, untested technology-driven "teaching" methods, and a laser-like focus on test scores are forced onto anybody's children?
“[A 2010] report found that of 39,199 DPS students tested as young children, only 23 had no lead in their bodies.”
As parents, we work hard to protect our children from everyday dangers – obvious, and not so obvious. For those of us who were doing home repair or renovation while our children were young, a big concern was making sure that our little ones did not ingest lead that was a standard element of paint sold before 1978. Those who are able can spend considerable amounts testing for lead and then having it carefully removed or encapsulated.
Not all children are so fortunate.
In a new study of children in Detroit Public Schools, students with blood levels of lead historically considered low, but above the new, lower threshold set last year, were 50% more likely to score poorly on the state MEAP tests. Even children with lead levels below the new limit were one third more likely to score poorly on their MEAP exams.
Maybe school reform is not the “civil rights issue of our time.” Perhaps child health – including the right for children to have their brains develop without the effects of poisons – is the civil rights struggle we should be waging today.
We’ve updated our legislative briefing on the “school choice” package of bills to reflect the passage of both SB 618 (charter caps) and SB 619 (“cyber” charters), as well as other legislative action.
The update document is in PDF format, and we will be updating it regularly as the bills make their way through the Legislature. The download link is at the end of the article.
The document is current as of 6/15/12, reflecting the bills as reported from committee or as passed by the Senate or House.
UPDATE: 14 June. The state House of Representatives today passed a revised version of SB 1040, a bill that aims to restructure the public school employee retirement system. The changes in this compromise bill are less dramatic than those proposed in the Senate version, but they still represent a substantial change in retirement benefits for future employees and increased costs for current employees. While some financial pressure is being taken off local school districts, the added costs of the transition will still come out of the School Aid Fund. Absent other measures to increase revenues to the SAF, this bill will not remove the burden on the education budget in the near term.
However, the state Senate, which had approved a version forcing all new employees into a defined contribution plan, adjourned for their summer break today without voting on the bill. They resume session on 18 July.
Both MIRS News and the Grand Rapids Press are reporting that the emergency manager running schools in Muskegon Heights has proposed replacing the public school district with a network of charter schools.
The emergency manager, Donald Weatherspoon, is proposing the conversion as part of his solution for the school district’s financial problems.