After Right-to-Work Vote, Focus Turns Back to Schools
Local districts, including the Bloomfield Hills Schools, continue to sound the alarm about education reform proposals taking shape in Lansing.
With the controversial passage of Michigan's righ-to-work legislation Tuesday, focus in Lansing is again turning toward education reform as the 'lame-duck' session continues.
Still this week, the Michigan House of Representatives and the Michigan Senate will consider two plans that will have a significant impact on public education, according to an alert issued by the Bloomfield Hills Schools.
First, lawmakers will consider a plan to eliminate the Personal Property Tax without full replacement of lost school revenue. SB 1065-1072, HB 6022- HB 6026 will supposedly cut services for students in special education and career and technical program, and force drastic cuts to sinking fund, enhancement and ISD operational millages.
Second, Senate Bill 620 proposes to create conversion schools. The bill would allow any school in the lowest achieving 5 percent in the State to be converted to a conversion school by petition of 51 percent of the parents or legal guardians and 60% of the teachers working at the school. This would also require a school district to lease a school building to a conversion school for $1 per year.
Allowing parents to petition to take over a school that has performed in the bottom 5 percent for three consecutive years raises concerns for school officials, such as Farmington Public Schools Superintendent Susan Zurvalec and others in education, because it doesn't provide for "due process" for taking over taxpayer-owned property. "We're very concerned about this bill," she said. "There's nothing in it that would improve or reform the instruction students would receive."
Zurvalec said the bill is "model legislation" created by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a non-profit organization that proposes legislation based on the ideals of "free-market enterprise, limited government, and federalism at the state level", according to the ALEC website.
Third, HB 5776 allows for parental consent for ineffective teachers. Under new teacher tenure laws, beginning in 2015-2016, districts will have to notify parents if their students are being placed in a class with a teacher rated ineffective in his or her most recent year-end evaluation. Zurvalec said this "ridiculous" bill requires the district to also obtain parental consent to place the child in the class.
Additionally, the bill does not require eligible parents to be registered voters in the school district of the public school, or even citizens of the United States, and are given a chance to influence and determine the governance of that school.
The bill also provides no ability to monitor and validate petition signatures. In fact, MDE has specified that it lacks the technical expertise, resources and capabilities to certify petitions in the event that a school attempts to change to a conversion school.
HB 6005, SB 1358 - Educational Achievement Authority (EAA)
BHS Superintendent Rob Glass and other Michigan administrators have been outspoken in their opposition to proposals that would create a state-wide school district whose leadership would report to the Governor. The original version of the bill would allow the EAA to create schools that could effectively discriminate against students, opponents said, and required school districts to keep empty buildings "school ready" for four years and, if asked, turn them over to charter schools.
Negotiations continue, and both school officials and legislators said there may be an agreement to limit the EAA to just the state's lowest achieving schools. An EAA is already in place for Detroit's 15 lowest achieving schools.
Patch Editor Joni Hubred-Golden contributed to this report.