UPDATED: Michigan GOP education “reform” drawing fire from across the state, Muskegon Hts. charter failing miserably

Rushing through an ideological experiment because they can — not because it’s smart

Michigan Republicans have embarked on what they are calling “reform” of our state’s K-12 school system. They are rushing to implement plans long proposed by conservative, anti-teacher groups like the Mackinac Center for Public Policy with laws that would increase the number of charter schools, impeded the ability of teachers to bargain collectively for better working conditions, wages and benefits, and privatize as much of the provision of education in Michigan as possible.

However, they are facing a stiff headwind, one they clearly did not expect. Teachers and administrators from all across Michigan are voicing their concern and outrage at this rushed attempt to impose an ideologically-driven model for education on our state. A coalition of 71 school administrators in west Michigan are speaking out about the effort. As I pointed out last week, superintendents from even some of Michigan’s wealthiest communities are speaking out. The Michigan Education Association has weighed in, as well.

A new Facebook page called Save Michigan’s Public Schools is documenting case after case of school districts holding public forums to educate the parents in their districts about this egregious attempt to take over our public school system. After just a few days of existence, it already has nearly 1,000 followers.

Here’s the thing about charter schools: they don’t have to be bad. There are plenty of examples of GOOD charter schools — schools that serve the needs of the kids in ways traditional schools can not. Even the American Federation of Teachers, one of the country’s largest teachers unions, has taken a positive position on charter schools and runs a charter system themselves. The problem comes in when charter schools are for-profit. Across the country, about 16% of charter schools are run by for-profit corporations. However, in Michigan, the number is a staggering 85-87% and our state has one-quarter of the country’s for-profit charter schools.

Like with healthcare and healthcare insurance, when schools are for profit, the recipients of their services — the students — suffer. Corners will be cut. Money will be saved where ever possible. Teacher salaries will be depressed. All of this in more to ensure the owners make as much profit as possible.

This already happening in Michigan, in fact. Last summer, the Muskegon Heights school district fired all of its teachers and hired Mosaica to come in to run its schools with a contract worth between $8.75 million and $11 million annually.

How is it going in Muskegon Heights schools? Not so good.

Michigan Public Radio reported yesterday that 25% of the teachers in Muskegon Heights have quit.

“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.

Funny how when you don’t pay teachers what they are worth and stick them in a hostile environment with no help to establish control they leave, isn’t it?

I’ve gotten reports from teachers in Muskegon Heights and they aren’t good. Here’s an example:

[T]eachers in the building say that they don’t yet have some books they need for the Paragon social studies curriculum. Apparently Paragon is the cornerstone of Mosaica’s educational model. The kids spend 90 min./day immersed in the Paragon curriculum. The sign on the side of our building has a small section at the bottom that reads “Powered by Paragon”.

They report complete confusion at the administrative level and even their most basic questions go unanswered. Kids with behavioral problems are placed in classrooms where they disrupt the other student. Teachers are asked to work 12+ hour days without breaks, are working without aides and they report being given no time for planning sessions. Meanwhile, Mosaica will still bring in at least $8.75 million a year no matter what their outcome.

Michigan Republicans are playing with fire. They are working hard to impose an ideologically-driven, for-profit model on our children’s education and they are doing it FAST with little input from parents and other stakeholders across the country.

However, they are feeling pressure and already changes have been made to some of the legislation. If you’ve ever thought about chiming in on this issue, that time is now. Reach out to your elected Representatives and ask them to slow the hell down and do this right. Experimenting with our kids’ education is outrageous and we need to put the brakes on this headlong rush into school privatization.

UPDATE: In a piece I wrote last week, I mentioned a MoveOn.org petition that you can sign to voice your opinion on this matter. It now has nearly 15,000 signatures.

Today, those petitions will be delivered to lawmakers in Lansing. Here’s an update from the petition’s author, Dave Frederick. It has valuable links for contacting your representatives.

Thanks to all of you, the Stop the Takeover of Public Education in Michigan petition has already made a significant contribution. As of this writing, nearly 13,000 citizens have signed the petition. Our awareness raising campaign combined with the efforts of organizations such as the Michigan State Board of Education, the Michigan Association of School Administrators, the Michigan Association of School Boards, the Michigan Association of School Social Workers, the Michigan PTA and others has caused HB 6004, and the companion SB 1358, to move slowly. For the time being, the bills remain stalled in House and Senate Education Committees.

Yes, your voice has been having an impact – but now is the time to ramp it up and finish the job we started! This coming Tuesday, December 4, we will be delivering petitions to members of the House and Senate Education Committees. We will also attempt to deliver petitions to the Majority Leader of the House, the Majority Leader of the Senate and the office of the Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder. If you can come to Lansing and help deliver petitions, please contact me by email ASAP at roadleaders9@aol.com. When your email is received, you will be contacted with a time, a meeting place and further details about this action.

If you are unable to attend on Tuesday, you can stilll help by doing the following:

1. Share our petition link with at least 5 more people on your email address list.

2. Contact your elected officials in Lansing. Use your own message or simply state the language from our petition: Do not continue to promote the passage of HB 6004 (SB 1358) or any other legislation that replaces locally elected representatives of the people with unelected State appointed bureacrats. We do not want the education of our children privatized and our tax dollars and local schools turned over to for-profit corporations. Use the easy links below to find your public servants.

For the future of our State,

Dave Frederick

To contact the Governor click the following link:
Governor Snyder’s Office
or call/fax
(517) 373-3400
(517) 335-6863 – Fax

To contact the Michigan House of Representatives click the following link: Michigan’s House of Representatives

To contact Michigan’s Senators click the following link: Michigan’s Senators

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  • Save Michigan’s Public Schools

    Thank you, Eclectablog, for writing this important piece!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jonny-Cache/1039153428 Jonny Cache

    The rampant destruction of public education in Michigan is just a small part of a nationwide attack being driven by private corporations, hedge fund operators, junk bond kings, media moguls like Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, etc., PACs led by opportunists like Michelle Rhee, and a host of others, all with the full orchestration of shadow bill mills like ALEC.

    Citizens concerned about public education can begin keeping up with breaking developments across the nation by reading Diane Ravitch’s blog:

    http://dianeravitch.net/

    • http://eclectablog.com Eclectablog

      Need to get Diane’s blog on my blog roll. Hopefully she’ll start calling me “Eclectablog” instead of “Electablog” in the future!

  • http://twitter.com/LauraLeeAuthor Laura Lee

    RE: “Funny how when you don’t pay teachers what they are worth and stick them
    in a hostile environment with no help to establish control they leave,
    isn’t it?” I think the long-term vision is that eventually all of the schools would be run on this model (a la Wal-Mart) and then teachers would have to work under those conditions because they would have no other options.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jonny-Cache/1039153428 Jonny Cache

    A Little Bit of History Repeated …

    Anyone with a working long-term memory knows where this agenda to “Starve Public Schools Out Of Existence” came from.

    And you can look it up …

    Richard DeVos Advocates “Stealth” Strategy Against Public Education
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-fTAhc4QC4

    Strategy for Privatizing Public Schools Spelled Out by Dick DeVos in 2002
    http://www.talk2action.org/story/2011/5/3/12515/58655

  • The_Weege_99

    I noticed that you don’t link to the actual bill, and that you use a lot of second-hand anecdotes as your “proof”. So, how were the Muskegan Heights schools doing before the change? Why don’t you talk about that?
    Perhaps some of the reasons why teachers don’t like the new school is that they’re not used to having to work like salaried people in the private sector, and they just don’t like it.
    And you make a most risible claim that somehow, just because a school is for profit, it is necessarily bad for the children. Got any proof, logic or reason to back up that claim?
    Enough with the scaremongering; why not address the issue like an adult for a change?

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