Education, Emergency Managers — May 23, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Muskegon Heights education advocates submit a “Citizens’ RFP” to reclaim their schools from for-profit corporations


Last month, the for-profit charter corporation Mosaica announced that it was breaking its contract, signed under an Emergency Manager, to run the entire Muskegon Heights school district. Why? Because they couldn’t make a profit off of running a school system in an economically depressed community.

I know. You’re shocked.

“To be brutally honest – they had to be brutally honest to themselves as well with us – in their model as a for profit company, their profit was not there,” [Emergency Manager Gregory] Weatherspoon said. […]

As of this week, the Emergency Manager has still not had a single group come forward in their Request for Proposal (RFP) to run the district.

Four days from now is the deadline when the Muskegon Heights schools closes the application period as it looks to hire a new management company.

So far, no one has applied.

The school system’s Emergency Manager continues to say he expects several applications.

Today, concerned citizens from the Muskegon Heights area submitted a “Citizens’ RFP” to the district urging leadership to move away from for-profit charter schools to run the district.

Karen Bednarek, a retired school social worker from the Muskegon area who worked for 37 years in public education released this statement:

Our elected leaders like Gov. Rick Snyder and conservatives in the legislature seem to have this idea that when a school district is struggling academically or financially, the best solution is to sell off our kids’ future to a for-profit company. It happened right here in this community and the results have not been satisfactory. We cannot allow unaccountable for-profit companies to be in charge of our children’s’ education. They deserve a quality, consistent education that will help them have a better future.

Mary Valentine, a former state representative from the Muskegon area, had this to say:

We desperately need an adequately funded school district and investments in our public education system. Our ‘Citizens’ RFP’ lays out what community members want to see for the students of our district: a quality education, an administration that can be held accountable to parents and a return to local control and democracy.

Here is their RFP:

Citizens’ Request for Proposal

Muskegon Heights Public Schools

May 23, 2014

Those students who still remain in the Muskegon Heights Public School district did not cause the financial problems facing the district. They deserve an education commensurate with the students in surrounding districts. These are the students who don’t have a choice to leave, and we have a responsibility to them and this community to provide them with a good education.

We, the undersigned citizens are requesting the following:

  1. The Muskegon Heights School District can no longer allow students to be used by for-profit companies to bolster their bottom line and cannot be allowed to enter the controversial and unproven Education Achievement Authority School District.
  2. Students must have a stable and nurturing learning environment. We cannot allow the high rates of teacher turnover in charter schools to continue to negatively affect the learning environment.
  3. A democratically elected school board must be given decision-making powers within this district to ensure proper use of taxpayer dollars.
  4. Adequate class sizes with research-proven student-to-teacher ratios.
  5. Access to professional, age appropriate libraries for all of our students.
  6. Fair and consistent discipline for all students.
  7. Appropriate special education services for all the students who qualify.
  8. Strong programs for music, art, drama, physical education and sports, commensurate with surrounding school districts.
  9. Counselors, social workers, psychologists and a school nurse available to all students.

We cannot allow the students of our community to continue to be test subjects for experimental education models. We need a properly-funded school district with qualified teachers and adequate class sizes. Our community deserves to have control over its neighborhood schools and the ability to hold our school officials accountable.

Public school advocates in Muskegon Heights are understandably concerned that, if the Education Achievement Authority is expanded — something Republican Governor Rick Snyder and his corporatist benefactors like the multi-millionaire Dick DeVos and his family desperately want — their school system will be swept up into the failed education experiment that has been proven to be epically failing Detroit students who attend EAA schools.

Again from Mary Valentine:

There is an effort to expand the EAA underway in Lansing and we here in Muskegon don’t want that kind of state-takeover for the kids of our community. We’ve heard the horror stories of the EAA in Detroit: Questionable leadership and spending habits, retaliation against teachers who speak out and unproven education methods plague the EAA and we want no part of it. The EAA — and the privatization of education — is a failed experiment and it needs to end. That goes for Muskegon Heights as well as the rest of the struggling districts of the state.

Unfortunately for the parents and students of Muskegon Heights, that decision rests not with them as community members, but with an unelected Emergency Manager who has been given control over their school system. While I’m hopeful Mr. Weatherspoon will listen to their concerns, the fact that he is Governor Snyder’s hand-picked “czar”.

And we all know what is on Governor Snyder’s agenda whether he admits it publicly or not: the destruction of the public school system and the outsourcing of the education of our students to for-profit corporations that siphon tax dollars into their corporate bank accounts.

Are you active in getting out the vote for Democrats? Are you active RIGHT NOW? If not, it’s time for you to get active. Organize as if the education of our children depends on it.

Because it does.