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Ferndale Residents Called to Action at School Issues Legislative Forum

Oakland Schools Superintendent Dr. Vickie Markavitch presented information on proposed state education reform on Thursday at Coolidge Intermediate School.

A full crowd of parents, residents, school officials and community leaders came out to Coolidge Intermediate School on Thursday evening to find out about pending legislation that would change the public education system in Michigan.

Oakland Schools Superintendent Dr. Vickie Markavitch spoke to attendees about the legislation, which is currently being deliberated in the State House and Senate, including Senate Bill 1358, House Bill 6004, and House Bill 5923.

The meeting in Ferndale was one of many Markavitch has been participating in across the county. She said she wants to see "a million voices" be heard in Lansing about the bills, which she has called "radical and dangerous."

Read more about the education reform proposals here.

School data presented

During the meeting, Markavitch highlighted data on local, state and national test scores, including pointing out recent improvements across the state in reading and math scores.

She said one of the current challenges is addressing areas with high poverty levels. "How do we get our children living in poverty to achieve at the very same rate (as those who aren't)?" she said.

[Slides from Markavitch's presentation are now available online at the Ferndale Public Schools web site.]

After presenting school data, Markavitch asked: "Does it look like America, or Michigan, or Oakland County has a failing system? Because it didn't to me," she said, continuing that it's difficult for her to imagine why "political and corporate" powers would try to cast doubt on the nation's schools.

The proposed legislation

Senate Bill 1358 and House Bill 6004 would expand an Education Achievement Authority (EAA) - a separate and statewide school district that would be overseen by a governor-appointed chancellor.

The new district would operate without oversight by the state superintendent of schools or the state board of education, Markavitch explained.

Even though there can be disagreements among residents with local school boards, "you have somebody you can go to" and work with on issues, she said. She asked whether the community "will get the same response from Wall Street, when they're running our schools?"

House Bill 5923 would create charter or virtual schools that could specialize and admit only students in particular interest areas.

Schools would be "specifying the type of students they want to serve," which Markavitch says allows for discrimination against students for any reason other than religion and would cause segregation.

"Discrimination with public money," she said, calling the proposed legislation "un-American."

Q&A session

Markavitch took questions from the audience during the meeting, clarifying for residents some aspects of the proposed legislation and responding to questions about online schools and more.

A homeschooling father said he felt competition would be good for schools and said the public school system is "still a very anti-competition system."

"Why can't we have some competition?" he asked.

Markavitch responded by saying public schools are for competition, "as long as the playing field is level," and that these bills were not the way to achieve it.

She also responded to a question about Right-to-Work legislation, which Markavitch said is not related to the education reform bills.

"Please keep fighting for us," said another resident, who had asked about charter schools.

Ferndale Public Schools Board of Education President Keith Warnick also spoke at the meeting and thanked Markavitch and all of the residents for their attendance.

How to get involved

Markavitch believes the way to counter the millions of dollars being spent by advocacy groups on drafting and passing reforms is by recruiting a million people to make their voices heard in Lansing

Attendees were encouraged to sign up on the Tricounty Alliance website for updates and to find advocacy letter templates. 

Board of Education member Karen Twomey said she believes the forum went well and said people were able to get a better understanding of what these meetings are all about.

"We're simply advocating to have quality schools for all children, with equally high standards," she said.

Twomey encouraged residents to contact their legislators and even make a trip to Lansing this weekend if they can. "Have a day in the capitol," she said. "Teach your kids about engaged citizenship."

Jim O'Donnell, a parent and newly-elected school board member who will begin his term next year, said the meeting was beneficial and said he will be encouraging his friends and family to sign up at the Tricounty web site.

"I think the superintendent did a great job providing an overview of the legislation," he said.

Mike Kuzniar, a local parent and Ferndale soccer coach, was glad he attended the forum. "It was some good information and it was worth listening to," he said.

Pleasant Ridge resident Caryn Leonard attended the meeting with her husband. Though their child is not yet school-age, she said the proposed legislation is "very disheartening" and makes her think twice about raising her kids in Michigan.

"This type of legislation and what's happening in the state is enough to have me definitely considering relocating where I raise my children," said Leonard, who is also a public school teacher.

She was appreciative that Markavitch came to Ferndale to address the issues. "I think Dr. Markavitch is extremely articulate and I think she's very dedicated to the cause," she said.

Ferndale_1986 December 07, 2012 at 09:01 PM
Here is the most important data point: How many of the school officials live next to DLC/Taft? Get back to us with the answer.
Ardy December 07, 2012 at 09:44 PM
Have yoseen the recent numbers where Charter schools teachers are rated worse that public school teachers? When was the last time you heard of a public school shutting down in the middle of the school year because it went bankrupt? Remember what happened to all of those kids at the Edison school when it left them hanging? Yep, nothing but one-sided information all right -- it's call the truth and the truth is always right and facts are facts. We have a bunch of radical people in our state leadership that only want to implement the union busting agenda of Koch, et. al. They have LOST ever drive toward this and this is the only way they can get something accomplished for their sugar daddies. A sick waste of taxpayer money by the Tea Party "faction" of the leadership. Can't wait for another two years so that we can mop up the rest of the scumbags and send then on their way with the other Tea Party scum.
Ferndale_1986 December 07, 2012 at 10:09 PM
Yeah..... Yeah.... That's what you say. Are you done with your rant?
Ardy December 08, 2012 at 02:53 AM
Hmmm..... rant? Facts are now a rant? You do know you and your pals lost the elections, right? That means the majority of people do not want, or like, what you want or like. When the shoe was on the other foot, you guys has no issue stepping all over our freedoms under the guise of terrorism. It's a good thing that your repackaged "fear the terrorist ... I mean the socialist Obama" was failed on arrival. The majority doesn't like your ideas. You, and your Tea Party buddies need to deal with that. The local Tea Party, facilitated directly by Sean House, failed horribly in Ferndale and was completely and totally decimated. This local defeat will be the blueprint that will bring down the rest of those rats in our government ... every single one of them ....
Ardy December 08, 2012 at 04:28 AM
So lets expand on this: The supposed party of less government and local control is now using big government to take away local control. That didn't happen to start with Engler, did it? It only make sense in a Snyder/Bolger/House/Gagne Tea Party mindset --- where you can complain about too much government control while wasting taxpayer money in the court system. This "Snyder/Bolger/House/Gagne Tea Party" stuff stops right now. How dare they ramrod our Democratic system like this?? If the Democrats did something like this during Bush II; all of those involved would have have figuratively rounded up and .... Oh wait. me bad ... the Republicans already vilified anyone who opposed them ... meh

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