This letter was received by Birmingham Patch Editor Laura Houser.
Governor Snyder is proposing a major shift in public education and education funding. His idea, presented by the well-funded, private Oxford Foundation, is to remove all borders and boundaries between school districts. This would allow state per-pupil funding to follow the student to one or several districts of their choosing, relinquishing the home district's "ownership" of that student.
In addition, this new shift also makes room for a state controlled, statewide school district composed of the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools managed by the very new EAA (Education Achievement Authority).
While I don't think anyone would argue that there isn't a need for improvement and advances in the education system, there are several very serious flaws to these bills (HB 6004, 5923 and SB 1358). It equates to building a house on shifting sands, something no prudent person would do.
First, last year Lansing passed a series of reforms to address charter schools, cyber schools and teacher performance and evaluations. None of these changes have been given even one year to see if the polices are effective or result in a better education for our students. The same can be said for the EAA, the newly-created state school system that is managing 16 Detroit schools with a combination of for-profit and non-profit companies. The EAA has been operational for only three months, with no data to support it's efficacy, not even first semesters report cards. Why is the governor pushing through more legislation that is unproven and relies on the potential for success instead of proof of real success?
Secondly, the new shift in the proposed legislation disregards local funding, local parents' choice, local and state school board authority and even overrides the authority of Mike Flanagan, the state superintendent. In almost a socialized government maneuver, it turns over the control of under-performing schools and unused property from any district to the governor and opens the door to state control and profit-seeking corporations to manage at their discretion.
Another flaw should be especially concerning for those paying higher property taxes to live in an area with higher achieving schools. Under this new legislation, you no longer need to live in Birmingham, Bloomfield, Troy, etc. to attend their schools. Your higher tax dollars will not change; what will, is your control over how your education tax dollars are spent.
The legislation moving swiftly through this lame duck session of congress is truly scary. It is masked in the promise of fixing our under-performing schools but gives little details of how. Who decides what schools are in the lowest 5 percent? With diluted school aid to all districts, what will happen to the students left behind? What standards will these state schools be held to? Will there be transparency in results and accounting? How will "for-profit" companies be chosen to manage these schools?
There are many more questions than answers to the Governors Snyder's education reform plan. We all need to pay attention; the devil lies in the details and so far, there are very little details.
For more on this topic
- Letter to the Editor: State Education Legislation is 'Bad for Birmingham'
- BLOG: Hey Teacher! (and Mom and Dad) Leave Those Kids Alone!
- Learn About the Education Reform Plan the School Board Calls 'Bad for Birmingham'
The viewpoints in this letter are those of the writers, and Patch is not responsible for any ideas portrayed as facts. For questions and clarifications, please leave a comment below or contact editor Laura Houser at firstname.lastname@example.org or 248-534-9780.