Locals monitor ‘attack on public education’Published 8:30pm Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Dr. Kevin Ivers, Berrien Regional Education Service Agency (RESA) superintendent, is carefully monitoring a potential “attack on public education” brewing in the lame-duck legislature.
Two bills, HB6004 and SB1358, expand the Educational Achievement Authority (EAA), which administers 15 low-achieving Detroit schools.
It is a separate entity with its own “chancellor” and no oversight by any local authority.
These bills expand the EAA to allow it to take over the lowest 5 percent of schools all over the state, creating a huge super-district.
It exempts EAA from the same laws required of community-governed schools, such as state testing. In fact, quality measures were not part of the legislation.
Ivers, in Berrien Springs, and Dowagiac Supt. Dr. Mark Daniel worry about the rush for approval and fear a back-door attempt to resuscitate vouchers.
But Gov. Rick Snyder’s focus is that last year, 238 Michigan high schools failed to produce a single student proficient in math or reading, even while every one of those schools was accredited.
“It has evolved quite a bit in the last week and I anticipate continued evolvement over the next week,” said Dowagiac’s state Rep. Matt Lori, R-Constantine, explaining he’d like to see an agreement before lawmakers adjourn for Christmas Dec. 14.
“I don’t think they have anything to worry about,” said Lori of his constituents, who have been vocal about the issue.
The League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass counties says EAA has “only been functioning in Detroit since September, yet is already declared a success and a model.
Richard McLellan, lead author of the plan, in a July memo lamented the sorry capabilities of the state’s data systems, leading one to wonder just how they would track all the students doing their own thing and the money that is to follow them. The Oxford Foundation is not a foundation, but a 501c-3 whose mission is to ‘lessen the burdens of government, an IRS-approved charitable purpose … Finally, there is the ultimate effect on public education in the state. This is perhaps a great plan for young geeks with informed parents, but what about the poor and minorities or even the lower middle class? The state’s paltry foundation level of $6,900 per pupil is not enough to educate a student in any scenario (short of a kid at home with a computer), so what will happen when it is divided up? So many questions, but such a rush.”
Ivers said he told state Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, that between schools of choice and dual enrollment, “I’m not seeing much of a demand in our area.”
In addition, the state superintendent of public instruction already has tools to intervene. Ivers said he is afraid students whose parents have little in the way of financial means being left behind.
Dr. Vickie L. Markavitch, superintendent of Oakland Schools, has been outspoken against EAA as a “system of schools which will be operated totally separate from and in competition with our community-governed schools.”
“For more than 20 years,” Markavitch said, “a persistent group of people has been trying to get public money to support private forms of education. It was called vouchers and the American people soundly defeated this movement. In Michigan, we defeated it not once, but twice. But the folks persisted and have since been joined by profiteers seeking to not just privatize, but corporatize, American public education. The partnership between these groups has created an unprecedented threat to the system of public education for all that built this country.”
Markavitch says the agenda has been to “denounce and defund public education, and it is succeeding in our state. To justify the defunding of community-governed schools, these partners had to start by casting doubt upon them. I believe facts are being misrepresented deliberately at both the state and national levels to cast these doubts. Since the 1970s, we have more Americans earning bachelor’s degrees, finishing high schools and scoring at higher levels on national and international tests. I’m not saying our education system does not need improvement. We have to get our students more engaged around high-level learning. The biggest thing we have not figured out is how we get children living in poverty up to the same level of achievement as children not living in poverty. This is especially important because our child poverty rate has gone up to 23 percent, compared to Finland’s 5 percent.”