Area superintendents collectively expressed the gravest of concerns Wednesday regarding a 300-page bill drafted for Gov. Rick Snyder that would overhaul how public education is administered in the state of Michigan.
Calling Senate Bill 1358, House Bill 6004, and House Bill 5923 “radical and dangerous,” Oakland Schools Superintendent Dr. Vickie L. Markavitch told attendees at the Novi High School gathering, “unbelievable things are going on in Lansing.”
More than 45 people, including superintendents from Novi, Huron Valley and South Lyon attended the 4 p.m. session of what was billed as a “call to action.” Another session was held at 6:30 p.m.
"What is being proposed is to create a statewide school system totally exempt from any of the rules and rights we live with, totally out of the purview of the state superintendent of instruction and the elected state board of ed," Markavitch said.
The bills sitting before the lame duck session of Lansing would put students at risk with untested, untried forms of schooling, Markavitch said.
Of HB 6004 and SB 1358 Markavitch had this analysis:
- The bills require the Michigan Department of Education to collect a list from all school districts of their unused buildings so they can be leased or sold to charter, nonpublic and EAA schools.
- The EAA and its schools would not be subject to the same laws and provisions of public schools.
- The bills are also tied to HB 5923 or the “New Forms of School Bill," which would allow charter schools to specify the student body they want to serve based on testing, gender, ethnicity or other factors. "This is the dangerous part. This selective enrollment would absolutely lead to separation of students, separation of opportunities. It would result in all kinds of segregation: racial, socioeconomic, who knows what," Markavitch said, adding that the bill is un-American.
"These legislative efforts take away funding and dollars from our community governed schools, they funnel them toward to corporate schools for-profit — 80 percent of the charter schools in Michigan are for-profit," she said.
Markavitch said the bills do not allow for quality, accountability or transparency in education.
If you were unable to attend Wednesday’s meetings, you can watch Markavitch’s presentation in a podcast by clicking this link.
What Local Administrators Had to Say
Dr. Steve Matthews, Superintendent of Novi Community Schools
Matthews, who has written several blogs about the proposals, opened the forum Wednesday by telling a story about his blind dog, using it as an analogy for this situation.
"Blind dogs can lead, but it does not mean they know where they're going," and he said. "And I try to suggest that maybe our state legislators are like blind dogs at times. They can lead us, but they may not know where we're going."
Matthews also told Novi Patch that these bills could affect Novi by pulling kids out of the district, which he is concerned about.
"Ultimately it's a death spiral, or it has that potential," he said. "Will it affect us tomorrow? Probably not. But in a year, in two years, in three years, it potentially could have a fairly dramatic impact on a school district like Novi."
"The other thing is we service every student who walks through the door. The EAA is initially focused on low-performing students, but if they set up these alternative forms of schools, they're not going to service every kid that walks through the door. And then who is going to service those kids? It's going to be us, and then people will get the perception that the local public schools aren't providing opportunities for high-achieving students. Currently we have all kinds of opportunities for high-achieving students."
RJ Webber, Assistant Superintendent of Academic Services for Novi Community Schools
Webber told Novi Patch that he testified in the state senate Wednesday morning.
"I talked about a loss of local control, the dissolution of school boards, the lack of oversight," he said.
"And then just the short amount of time that they're using to put this through is really problematic — how quickly they want to put this through. Why? Why does it have to be that fast? Why can't we have a vigorous debate about this?"
Dr. Bill Pearson, Superintendent of South Lyon Community Schools
Pearson spoke to the crowd, saying that South Lyon doesn't have any vacant buildings, but it does have a good product that it wants to protect.
"The dismantling of public education will happen right in front of your very eyes, and the things that occur are not going to be good," he said.
"We're proud in public education that we educate all kids. We're proud that we have the special education kids, the ESL kids, and the teachers work very hard every day making sure that the proper education is taking place. That's not going to happen if this thing occurs...and we can't let it happen."
Jim Baker, Interim Superintendent for Huron Valley Schools
Baker spoke to the forum, giving background on his district, which receives the lowest funding in the state and has trimmed out $30 million from its budget over the past seven years. He said that the district made the tough decision to close two buildings within the last three years.
Baker said he fears a selective charter school could come in and skim the best of the public school students. He said he also fears this would prevent school districts from making the right decisions in the future.
"Why would a board possibly decide to close a building with an EAA out there that is going to take over that building an allow a charter academy or a selective university to come in and then skim off the best and brightest of our kids?" he said. "You will have districts that will be making decisions not to take those measures that really should be done because we need to be fiscally responsible with the tax dollars."
"I don't say this lightly that this is about to hit us right between the eyes," he said.
Claude Tiller, Education Ombudsman for Detroit Public Schools
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, and now they have opened up a can of worms," he said. "They were coming in after Detroit Public Schools, but now they are coming after all districts."
Call to action
“For more than 20 years a group has been trying to get public money for private forms of education. In the old days this was called vouchers and the American people defeated this soundly. And, in Michigan it was defeated not once, but twice,” Markavitch said.
But the folks pushing it are persistent, and profiteers, Markavitch said, have since joined them trying to corporatize public education.
“How do we fight the millions of dollars they're spending on this? The answer is with a million voices," the superintendent said.
Markavitch asked people to take action and contact their legislators by Dec. 12 through the Tri-County Alliance for Public Education Legislative Action Center website, which helps users craft emails and encourage others to do the same.
Markavitch said since Tuesday night, when she spoke at two meetings in Royal Oak, another 1,500 people had registered on the site by Wednesday morning.
Meetings planned for Farmington, Rochester, Clarkston
- Thursday, Nov. 29, 4 p.m. Farmington Schools, 32789 W. 10 Mile Road
- Thursday, Nov. 29, 6:30 p.m.Farmington Schools, 32789 W. 10 Mile Road
- Monday, Dec. 3, 4 p.m. Rochester High School, 180 S. Livernois
- Monday, Dec. 3, 6:30 pm. Rochester High School, 180 S. Livernois
- Tuesday, Dec. 4, 4 p.m. Clarkston Jr. High School, 6595 Waldon Road
- Tuesday, Dec. 4, 6:30 p.m. Clarkston Jr. High School, 6595 Waldon Road
- Your Guide to Michigan Education Reform Proposals