Education, Michigan Republicans — May 16, 2013 at 12:27 pm

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.