Education, Michigan Republicans — May 16, 2013

GOP Sen. Pavlov attacks regulation of charter schools, State Bd. Of Ed. Pres. John Austin responds (beautifully)


That’s gonna leave a mark

[State Board of Education President John Austin — photo by Anne C. Savage for Eclectablog]

Republicans are going Code Red to defend their desire to exempt charter schools from any sort of additional scrutiny, including being held to the same educational standards as public schools are. Toward that effort, state Senator Phil Pavlov went on the attack against the State Board of Education for even suggesting it. Pavlov is the chair of the Senate Education Committee. He then went on to blame the State Board of Education for the dire financial situation schools like those in Buena Vista and Pontiac find themselves in:

The State Board of Education needs to stop their partisan obsession with charter schools and focus on the problems they are responsible for. Where has their oversight been in Pontiac and Buena Vista schools? The board should be working to find preventive solutions to the mismanagement and fraud in these districts where local boards have misspent millions of taxpayer dollars and cost thousands of children the education they deserve.”

State Board of Education President John Austin, someone whose name has been talked about as a terrific choice for Lt. Governor of Michigan given his experience in education, is not taking this lying down. He put out the following statement, slamming Sen. Pavlov for his blatant politicization of our education system in Michigan. It’s a thing of beauty.

Senator Phil Pavlov felt moved by State Board of Education recommendations to improve charter school transparency and oversight to lash out at the State Board over the Buena Vista and Pontiac Schools financial crisis.

The State Board is doing its job to provide oversight over all schools, charter and traditional. There is a well-developed process, under our State Superintendent, to review the finances of all schools, and intervene when a district’s finances are in trouble. At last count 49 districts are under close scrutiny and required to resolve deficits. When schools willfully misrepresent their finances, the plug gets pulled as we saw with Buena Vista.

But the Senator needs to acknowledge that a major contributor to the financial death spiral of so many school districts is Michigan’s new school and charter school expansion policy. When the legislature eliminated the cap on new university charters and expanded dramatically the number of new untested on-line school offerings in Michigan, Senator Pavlov and his colleagues purposefully rejected the State Board’s recommendations to ensure that any new schools deliver high-quality education. As a result, as reported by respected non-partisan education reform groups like Education Trust Midwest: Michigan is seeing a fast growth in charters and new schools that deliver poor education. As Ed Trust Director Amber Arrellano said: “Some of the worst operators in the state are the ones that are growing the fastest.” (See

These new schools that don’t deliver the educational goods take students and resources from other public schools—contributing to their financial distress—and also hurt the reputation and ability to attract students of high-quality charters. Charter school advocates like myself and Michigan Future’s Lou Glazer believe the charter movement is hurt, not helped when the Legislature enables poor quality, poorly regulated charter schools. (See

The State Board of Education is doing its job to call for quality and transparency in all schools. The Legislature needs to do the same.

Senator Pavlov’s love of further privatizing of Michigan’s public schools, an effort to direct the 80% of state funding that pays for our schools into the bank accounts of for-profit corporations is obvious. However, it’s offensive that he would take a catastrophe like is happening in areas like Buena Vista and Pontiac, where our kids’ futures are being sacrificed on the altar of business tax cuts, and turn it into an attack on those who would attempt to hold charter schools accountable. We need the State Board of Education to stand up for our kids in all schools and that’s just what they are doing.

Senator Pavlov’s grandstanding is just one more piece of evidence that Michigan Republicans will fight tooth and nail until they have destroyed our public school system and turned our students into good little, poorly-educated workers and profit centers for the businesses and corporations that bankroll the Republicans in this state.

  • Charter schools get state money, they should, at the very least, be held to the same standards as public schools. Personally, I think since someone makes a profit off these schools they should be held to higher standards than public schools.

    • Troy

      They ARE held to the same standards……I challenge you to name one standard to which government schools are held that Public School Academy’s are not. Also, there are service providers which profit from their relationships with government shools as well as Public School Academies…..private text book companies, private transportation companies, private food service companies, private custodial companies. Why is profit such a dirty word to so many?

      • Davey J

        If they are held to the same standards, why is this political cat fight happening? Shouldn’t it be a non-issue? Wouldn’t Pavlov say that they already are, and tell the BOE that, instead of changing the subject? Seems to be a bit of a disconnect somewhere.

        There’s nothing wrong with profits, but public schools have historically been non-profit. If you have both entities existing, in a field that has been, at it’s heart, only one to date, and the other doesn’t have a long history…well…can’t blame a healthy bit of suspicion there. Or are you suggesting I should just blindly trust that the corporations that run charters have my daughters’ best interests at heart?

      • jbuch

        Do most Charter schools hire their own teachers or are they routed through a private company to avoid paying MPSERS retirement? The answer is that there are very few actual employees of charter schools. There are more public school teachers retiring every year with less and less paying into the system which is causing astronomical retirement rates. Charter schools are paying these rates because they don’t hire their staff leaving traditional public schools stuck with the bill.

  • RS

    It’s the taxpayer’s money. Subsidize the parents! Let the parents decide what is best for their children, not some government employee.
    Vouchers would give parents in poor districts immediate options. The status quo, government teachers will,sadly, fight against it for their own gain.

    • wmrharris

      Always a nice thought, “let the parents decide” but behind this is the notion that some one else provides the schools. The parents are not the shaper of the schools, but only another consumer. the vision of public education is something different: the community (i.e. the parents and their friends) creates the schools, oversees the schools. This is the real flaw in many charter schools, that they abdicate this essential public function.

      By their nature, schools are a collective enterprise. They’re something we do together. That reality then asks that our schools have transparency and accountability. Merely opting out for choice provides little in the way of accountability, and certainly not the sort of accountability that can affect how our kids get educated (that is, in elective/choice systems there is a market discipline but it functions over a period of years — I need a school to be accountable now, not in three or four years).

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  • kirke123

    forget lieutent gov. just go for govenor!