Michigan Republicans move to privatize public education under the guise of “reform”

This is a Big Government takeover, Republican style. Period.

Although many of us here in Michigan have been fearful regarding what the Republicans in our state legislature would do during the lame duck session which lasts for the next three weeks, few of us envisioned the draconian steps they would take to hand over the education of our kids to private, for-profit corporations and destroy our public school system once and for all. That is, however, exactly what they plan to do.

A new package of bills is making its way through the legislature (there’s an Education Committee meeting on them today, in fact) that will all but end public education as we know it in Michigan. The bills, House Bill 6004 and Senate Bill 1358, House Bill 5923, and Senate Bill 620 are revolutionary and are so far-reaching/over-reaching that school superintendents and other administrators across the state are sounding alarm bells far and wide.

Below is a letter sent to parents by Bloomfield Hills Superintendent Rob Glass. As my pal Brainwrap explains in his comprehensive Daily Kos post on this topic (from which I am shamelessly cadging parts of for this post), Bloomfield Hills is not exactly a hotbed of liberalism. It is, in fact, an exceedingly affluent and conservative community north of Detroit.

If you think I’m over-hyping this issue, read the following letter, posted earlier today on the Bloomfield Hills School District website by superintendent Rob Glass. I repeat: This was posted by the superintendent of the BLOOMFIELD HILLS SCHOOL DISTRICT.

As in, one of the wealthiest and most Republican areas in Michigan.

As in, Mitt Romney’s home town, also the home town of Cranbrook.

Here’s Glass’s letter:

An urgent call to action from Superintendent Rob Glass

Posted: November 28, 2012

Dear Parents and Citizens: This is an urgent call to action affecting your Bloomfield Hills Schools and public education in Michigan. A package of bills designed to corporatize and dismantle public education is being hastily pushed through this current ‘lame duck’ legislative session. If we do not take immediate action, I believe great damage will be done to public education, including our school system. We have just three weeks to take action before it’s too late. The bills are:

House Bill 6004 and Senate Bill 1358: Would expand a separate and statewide school district (the EAA) overseen by a governor-appointed chancellor and functioning outside the authority of the State Board of Education or state school superintendent. These schools are exempt from the same laws and quality measures of community-governed public schools. The EAA can seize unused school buildings (built and financed by local taxpayers) and force sale or lease to charter, non-public or EAA schools.

House Bill 5923: Creates several new forms of charter and online schools with no limit on the number. Bundled with HB 6004/SB1358, many of these schools could be created by the EAA. Public schools are not allowed to create these new schools unless they charter them. Selective enrollment/dis-enrollment policies will likely lead to greater segregation in our public schools. This bill creates new schools without changing the overall funding available, further diluting resources for community-governed public schools.

Senate Bill 620: Known as the ‘Parent Trigger’ bill, this would allow the lowest achieving 5% of schools to be converted to a charter school while allowing parents or teachers to petition for the desired reform model. This bill will not directly affect our district, but disenfranchises voters, ends their local control, and unconstitutionally hands taxpayer-owned property over to for-profit companies. Characterized as parent-empowerment, this bill does little to develop deep, community-wide parent engagement and organization.

I’ve never considered myself a conspiracy theorist—until now. This package of bills is the latest in a yearlong barrage of ideologically-driven bills designed to weaken and defund locally-controlled public education, handing scarce taxpayer dollars over to for-profit entities operating under a different set of rules. I believe this is fundamentally wrong. State School Superintendent Mike Flanagan and State Board of Education President John Austin and others have also expressed various concerns, as has the Detroit Free Press.

We embrace change, innovation and personalization. We’re passionate about providing choices and options for students. We compete strongly in the educational marketplace. We must never stop improving. This is not a laissez faire plea to defend the status quo. This is about making sure this tidal wave of untested legislation does not sweep away the valued programs our local community has proudly built into its cherished school system. If you are concerned about these bills, please do the following:

Public education in Michigan can and must remain strong, but it will only happen if we act NOW.

Sincerely, Rob Glass, Superintendent

Legislative Contact information:

Governor Rick Snyder
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing, MI 48909
Email Address: Rick.Snyder@michigan.gov
Tel: 517.335.7858 (Constituent Services)

41st State Rep District (Troy) Representative Marty Knollenberg (R)
N0890 House Office Building
P.O. Box 30014
Lansing, MI 48909
Email Address: MartyKnollenberg@house.mi.gov
Tel: 517.373.1783

13th State Senate District (City BH) Senator John Pappageorge (R)

1020 Farnum Building
P.O. Box 30036
Lansing, MI 48909-7536
Email Address: SenJPappageorge@senate.michigan.gov
Tel: 517.373.2523

40th State Rep District (Blfld. Twp/City) Representative Chuck Moss (R)
S0889 House Office Building
P.O. Box 30014
Lansing, MI 48909
Email: ChuckMoss@house.mi.gov
Tel: 517.373.8670

15th State Senate District (West Bloomfield) Senator Mike Kowall (R)
305 Farnum Building
P.O. Box 30036 Lansing, MI 48909
Email: SenMKowall@senate.michigan.gov
Tel: 517.373.1758<

39th State Rep District (West Bloomfield) Representative Lisa Brown (D)
S0888 House Office Building
P.O. Box 30014
Lansing, MI 48909-7514
Email: lisabrown@house.mi.gov
Tel: 517.373.1799

More information on this package of bills is available from the Michigan Association of School Administrators HERE (pdf).

As you will see in Brainwrap’s piece, Glass is not the only superintendent sounding the clarion call for action on these bills. Even the Michigan State Board of Education is pushing back.

State Board of Education President John C. Austin said, “This is a huge policy change in how we create schools and language needs to be considered much more thoughtfully and in the context of how we fund all schools throughout the state.”

He said that the legislation, as written, does not focus on where there is need for quality new schools created and that was an omission last year when the state legislature expanded the caps on charter schools.

“We need to let the system stabilize and decompress,” said State Superintendent Mike Flanagan. “All of the reforms can demoralize the 100,000 people working in our classrooms, and this statement seems to say that.”

The genesis of these “reforms” is a project being conducted by a group known as the “Oxford Foundation”. It was formed by a cofounder of the anti-union, pro-privatization “think tank” the Mackinac Center, Richard McLellan. The Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals outlines their latest memo HERE.

The Oxford Foundation has released an update on its Public Education Finance Project (the self-selected name it has given its efforts to rewrite the School Aid Act). The memo outlines a project of extensive scope. When taken together with the legislation that has introduced already as part of this effort, the vision incorporates not only a funding system that is, in effect, a public school voucher, but also a host of new forms of charter school, and a new statewide super-charter authorizer.

The codification of the EEA is largely a response to Detroit Public Schools’ effort to get their schools back from the existing EEA. Education Committee Chair Lisa Posthumus Lyons introduced the legislation only two days after the November election.

The future of the EAA — and its 15 schools, 467 employees and 10,000 students — is uncertain.

Emboldened by the repeal of the state’s tougher emergency manager law, the Detroit Board of Education has threatened to take the EAA schools back.

State Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, R-Alto, introduced a bill two days after the election that would codify the EAA by making it part of state law.

“Putting the bill into statute makes it clear it is the public policy of the state and avoids some challenge that could be coming,” said Bill Rustem, director of policy for Gov. Rick Snyder. “The governor would like it to get done this year.”

This rushed schedule is raising eyebrows from all corners of the state. The Detroit Free Press editorial board is castigating the Republicans for their hurried effort to accomplish something so far-reaching and that will have such a critical impact on our state and the education of our children:

Editorial: Rush to school reform likely to get it wrong

Lame-duck legislative sessions are typically the devil’s cauldron, filled with a steaming heap of cowardly and ill-thought-out legislation that wouldn’t have a prayer of passing if citizens (or even lawmakers) were paying much attention.

This year is no different, with the Republican majorities in both chambers weighing serious, sweeping structural changes to public education in a hurried and haphazard fashion. Certainly, the goal of this sloppy legislation isn’t to improve schooling (you’d need a far more careful approach to do that) so what’s the motive? Likely, it’s ideology — which is often the enemy of improved outcomes.

Everyone should be wary of the fact that these new ideas have been forged by Lansing lawyer Richard McLellan, a former official in the administration of Gov. John Engler and the cofounder of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, who has long been a proponent of a voucher system, which would send public money to private schools.

Gov. Rick Snyder asked McLellan — whose job is running the Oxford Foundation, which aims to “lessen the burdens of government” — to oversee the rethink of public school funding in the state.

It’s not just groups like the Mackinac Center and their spawn who are advocating this massive shift of public assets to the private sector. Michelle Rhee’s anti-teacher group “Students First” is promoting it to their email lists, as well.

So, now is the time to reach out to your Senators and Representatives. YOU CAN DO SO HERE. Direct contact CAN make a difference and if there is hue and cry from across the state, we have the potential to turn this back.

In addition, Dave Frederick has posted a petition on SignOn.org that now has over 10,000 signatures:

The people of 77 the 83 counties in Michigan voted successfully to repeal Michigan’s Emergency Manager Law. Governor Rick Snyder and the extremist-controlled Michigan legislature are now attempting to circumvent the will of the people by passing new legislation that is every bit as unconstitutional, anti-democratic, and vile as the law the people have just rejected. The proposed bill, HB 6004 “Educational Achievement Authority,” violates our State Constitution and will substitute unelected bureaucrats with dictatorial powers for local, duly elected representatives of the people. Tell Governor Snyder and the Michigan Legislature to vote no on any legislation that attempts to circumvent the will of citizens who voted to repeal PA 4, the Emergency Manager Law.

You can sign Dave’s petition HERE.

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  • Diane Gee

    I sent this to not just my reps… but to all of them in MI. You may use it in full or in part.

    *House Bill 5923, House Bill 6004 and Senate Bill 1358*

    Dear Madams and Sirs,

    The package of bills making their
    way through the legislature, House
    Bill 6004 and Senate Bill 1358, House Bill 5923, and Senate Bill 620,
    are completely counter productive and counter-intuitive to a healthy
    educational system.

    Know that, each and every one of you or your compatriots that vote for
    passing them will face opposition from recall to a full blown campai
    gn against your re-election at any time in the future.

    We, the people you are sworn to represent, virulently oppose the
    privatization of our school system. We understand fully that to take our
    public monies, and funnel them into a for-profit system is theft. We
    understand that in a for-profit system, value has to be stolen from the
    bottom in order for the top to profit.

    Like the misnomer,
    “right to work” this is a blatant attempt to frighten us into being
    complicit in losing a class war against us. The rich can pay, the
    middle and lower classes will end up with an inferior product at the
    very core of what could lift them out of it – their education.

    Michigan voted soundly against PA4. This, and other bills like it are
    an attempt to side step our ability to work and vote in our own best
    interests. You aren’t stupid, either. You know we know.

    But be
    on notice! As you further attempt to reduce our collective power and
    reduce our expectations of, and actual standards of living we still get
    to vote for you personally. Your JOBS are at stake along with our
    children’s futures.

    I will, and every one I know, will oppose
    you, hold you to account and spread the word. I am a political
    journalist and have a radio show. I intend to name names, and stay on it
    until you drop this attempt to let the loss be our kids and their
    teacher to enrich a very few.

    Education is a right, local
    control is a right, bought and paid for by the collective pooling of our
    money to make it free and accessible for all children.

    You are quietly declaring war on our rights. We will fight back.

    Diane M Gee

    • http://eclectablog.com Eclectablog

      Well done, Diane. This is brilliant. Eloquent and spot on.

      • Diane Gee

        I have no idea why the c&p trunucated the paragraphs…. ah well. I sent it to the Freep too.

  • sunmusing

    This is scary…the assault on ALL of the states continues unabated….fueled by the Koch brothers…ALEC is one of the enemies of our democracy…and those who support them…Privatizing prisons a bad idea as well…we have to be vigilant and work against these forces…the concentration of the wealth in this country has emboldened the corrupt forces to continue this WAR on the people and our constitutional rights…they will not be stopped until we can get out the message…of which the MSM won’t do…

  • Scott Urbanowski

    Does this remind anyone of the EM law?

  • Pingback: Michigan Republicans move to privatize public education under the guise of “reform” | Eclectablog « 3poisons()

  • TeacherPatti

    This is so scary on so many levels. I would like to point out that, once again, no one is talking about special needs kids. You can profit off of a kid like me (fairly affluent, stable home, no learning disabilities); you can’t profit off of a kid who needs special ed teachers, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, wheelchairs, a nurse to do suction, assistive technology, and so on. What will happen to those kids? My “office space” is in a school for the severely handicapped–kids who need help eating, walking, communicating, toileting as well as kids who need one-to-one guidance almost all the time…what will happen to them? Back to institutions? Send them home? What?

  • Mary Valentine

    This article by Lindsey Smith of NPR was posted this morning. This is exactly why we should not have these schools proliferated across the state. Please contact your legislators.

    By Lindsey Smith

    Credit Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

    Over the summer Muskegon Heights schools’ then emergency manager laid off everybody who worked at the district and hired Mosaica Education to run operations for 5 years.

    Muskegon Heights has some of the lowest performing schools in Michigan
    and is dealing with a multi-million dollar deficit. The state appointed
    manager says he had no other option but to privatize operations.

    Three months in, one in four (20 of 80 total) of the newly hired teachers has quit.

    “It’s confusing because I go from this learning process to this
    learning process to that learning process and it’s just ridiculous how
    some teachers leave and we have to start all over and learn something
    new,” Muskegon Heights High School senior Tony Harris said, “It’s just,
    it’s crazy.”

    Harris says he’s had two math teachers leave and a number of substitute
    teachers in between. Other students confirmed his account and expressed
    frustration over a lack of consistency this school year. Another high
    school senior told me her math teacher burst into tears in class one day
    and quit shortly after.

    “We’ve had a turnover of staff that we did not anticipate,” said Alena Zachery-Ross, Mosaica’s Regional Vice President.

    She says some of the teachers were leaving in the beginning of the
    school year because there was no discipline policy in place yet. Since
    then, she says other teachers have left for jobs at traditional public
    schools with better pay and benefits.

    “I do understand their concern for their own family. I just want the stability for our own students,” Zachery-Ross said.

    The high school principal quit before the first week of class.
    Zachery-Ross had to cover that position until a new principal was hired
    in October.

    “I do I feel like we would be making more progress and would see more
    gains if we’d had the same teachers in the classes that we’ve had the
    turnover,” Zachery-Ross said.

    “We’ve hired the best (teachers) we could find but some people were
    just not expecting how tough it’s going to be,” Mosaica Education
    co-founder and President Gene Eidelman said. He says it was a challenge
    to hire a staff of 140 people between the time the charter contract with
    Muskegon Heights schools was signed in July until the start of school
    in September.

    “We tried to hire the best we can, tried to give (staff) as much
    information as we can, but also we didn’t know what we we’re going to be
    facing. (The turnover rate) really has come down. The teachers are much
    more comfortable,” Eidelman said.

    “Our staff has been through a lot; working all kinds of hours. They’re really heroes,” Eidelman said.

    Teachers I spoke with were nervous to speak on the record about working
    conditions at their schools and declined to be interviewed for this
    story. Check back for a more in-depth update on how things are going at
    Muskegon Heights schools later this month.

  • Pingback: Michigan GOP education “reform” drawing fire from across the state, Muskegon Hts. charter failing miserably | Eclectablog()

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  • http://www.facebook.com/lois.michalik Lois Michalik

    all I can say is watch on utube [. The Snyder tune] and its all true.

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