Thursday, November 29, 2012

Michigan GOP Seek to Privatize Public School System During 'Lame-Duck' Session

During their lame duck session, Michigan Legislators are trying to push through legislation that would destroy Michigan's public education system as we know it. House Bills 6004 and 5923 and Senate Bills 1358 and 620 seek to privatize Michigan's public school system. Many school administrators and superintendents from throughout the state are speaking out against this package of bills and warning the people of their district about the extreme and potentially damaging effect these bills present if passed and signed into law. 

Rob Glass, Superintendent of Bloomfield Hills; even went as far as to publish a letter on the school's website to warn residents about these bills and encouraged people to contact Governor Snyder and various legislators to stop the privatization of Michigan's schools and to vote against this package of bills. Along with administrators and superintendents from across the state, the Michigan State Board of Education is also against this legislation.   

In short, what this legislation will do if passed, is it would create a separate statewide school district (Education Achievement Authority) that is overseen by a governor appointed chancellor that operates outside the authority of the State Board of Education. This also would mean that these schools are exempt from the same laws as other public schools. The EAA can also seize and force sale or lease unused school buildings to charter, EAA or other non-public schools.  This legislation also creates new forms of online and charter schools with no limit on the number of these schools that are created. Public schools would have to charter these schools if they chose to create them. This bill would further strain the funding and resources to public schools as it would create more schools that would need to be funded. Senate Bill 620 is known as 'The Parent Trigger Bill' and although the name of the bill sounds like it puts parents in control what it actually would do is allow the lowest achieving 5% of schools to become charter schools. This also would allow parents or teachers to petition for a reform model which in return, would end the local, community control of a school and would hand over taxpayer owned property and money to for-profit companies. It does nothing to address or develop community and parent involvement in local school districts. 
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Who is behind this power grab and privatization of Michigan's Education System? None other than the conservative think tank, The Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Co Founder Richard McLellan has formed a group named the Oxford Foundation, who under the guise of 'school reform' back and support this package of bills. Governor Rick Snyder has asked McLellan and his group to oversee the rethink of public school funding in the state.    

It appears that the Michigan GOP is willing to put anything up for sale-including Michigan's education system. If passed, Michigan's tax payers will be funding private corporations and companies that operate outside of the State Board of Education and are only answerable to a Governor appointed chancellor. This is full blown privatization and emergency management of Michigan's Education system. Republican State Representative and EAA Committee Chair, Lisa Posthumus Lyons was quick to introduce this legislation only two days after the election, in hopes that it will pass during Michigan's three week 'lame duck' session.

I personally question the legality of this whole situation and the EAA. The EAA was put in place to control Detroit's school district under Public Act 4, also known as 'the emergency manager law.' On election day, in a referendum vote, Michigan voters in 77 of Michigan's 83 counties voted to overturn PA 4, but yet emergency managers remain and now the EAA is aiming to privatize and control Michigan's entire education system. This package of bills is a attempt to circumvent the will of the people who voted against PA 4. 

In response to this extreme legislation a petition has been created to raise your voice and once again speak up and out against this horrific legislation.

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