Hey Teacher! (and Mom and Dad)...Leave Those Kids Alone!

Governor Snyder's group wants you to believe that we can better educate "the kids" by taking teachers and parents out of the equation.

Govenor  Snyder’s Oxford Foundation is currently trying to frame this fall’s discussion about school funding in a fantastically bizarre way.

In their view, the top Oakland County  “Districts” that parents work and sacrifice to get their kids into – Troy, Birmingham, Bloomfield, etc. – stand opposed to the “rights” of parents and the interests of kids’ themselves.

I am not kidding.

Here is their language “interpreting” Article VIII, §2 of the Michigan Constitution of 1963 guaranteeing public education:

"The legislature shall maintain and support a system of free public elementary and secondary schools as defined by law. Every school district shall provide for the education of its pupils without discrimination as to religion, creed, race, color or national origin.

The issue is significant in light of Governor Snyder’s approach to improving public education in that it contemplates an “unbundling” of public education.

In summary, there seem to be two inconsistent views:

  • School District Control. Under this approach, admission to the public school is limited to pupils who enroll in and are controlled by the school district, i.e., “its pupils.” While every Michigan resident has the right to attend a free public elementary or secondary school, the student must attend a school is a single school district for all of his or her education in order to eligible for the “free” education.
  • Pupil/Parent Rights. An alternative view is that the “free public elementary and secondary schools” are to be established for the benefit of the pupils of the state and the legislature, in maintaining and supporting a “system,” has created a system whereby the pupil and his parents may select either a complete package of education from the district of the pupil’s residence or select to receive only part of his or her experience from a particular school."


Read the “two inconsistent views” again. You are being told that your rights are somehow being compromised by the top rated Districts your child attends.


That is the framework of the argument you will hear again and again over the next couple of weeks. You can hear this in other simplified forms these days at local school board races: “I am for the kids, not high priced administrators” or “let’s get back to education for the kids" or "school is for the kids not adults" -- as if one could somehow separate the adults who parent and teach from the kids that go to school.

That is indeed an "alternative" notion of education.

Every time you hear someone say they are doing something “for the kids” in Oakland County – but they aren’t a parent or teacher or an administrator directly involved with kids in K-12 – duck.

Furthermore, The Oxford Foundation would like to create a new school aid act that opens the districts so wide that the very idea of the district will be obsolete. If you think your property values are in any way tied to your school district....

The motivation here is open for interpretation.

One can argue persuasively that the pragmatic Governor is legitimately trying to find ways to help failing districts by limiting their control.

But those in top districts should understand this is also a perfect opportunity for both opponents of public education and those hostile to supposedly  “rich” districts to change everything you thought you had going for you. And they are going to do it, of course, “for the kids.”

And you haven’t been told anything about it by the Oakland County press or your local representatives.

These reforms will damage top districts so much that public education across the board will be damaged. There will be a greater demand for private schools (jacking up those tuitions and changing the character of those schools), and a cry for charter schools.

Always worthwhile to ask: who might benefit from a proliferation of “charter” schools or enhancements to private schools other than “the kids”? What markets are opened up here -- "for the kids"?

As a parent of two in BHSD, I trust my current school administrators, teachers, and fellow parents to educate my kids more than I trust the Oxford Foundation that is trying to pit me against the people teaching my kids.

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Mike Reno November 12, 2012 at 11:57 PM
MAC says, "Remember, the "public" school system has basically been eliminated," I just don't see that. Maybe you can help me to understand why you see it in such a binary way? I cannot EVER see traditional public schools going away.
Mac November 13, 2012 at 12:54 AM
When I say public schools have basically been eliminated under a choice system, I mean that what we think of as a "public school" now wouldn't exist any more. At least I don't understand how it would. If money follows the student, every school and no school is a "public school". They all get public money, right? So what is a "public school"? Why would any school exist that has to take every student, provide transportation, provide free lunch, support special needs, accept fast and slow learners, teach state mandated curriculum, and be judged by standardized test results...when nobody else has to do that? Why would anybody offer that? What's the incentive? It seems like the answer is there would have to be some sort of government run "school of last resort" whose resources are devoted to all those support, remedial and disciplinary services, with students who are unplaceable elsewhere. I guess that would be a "public school", but certainly not in the terms we understand it now.
Mac November 13, 2012 at 01:33 AM
Mr. Reno, I think we might agree in entirety on your last two posts, which are quite eloquently presented. I see the potential benefits to my child, and others, of having a variety of educational options. I would be happy to find a more perfect fit for my child. So in theory, and in an ideal reality, I understand the goal. My hesitation, which is very strong, is to how such a reality would be realized, and whether it would be as we hoped. I hear people acting on the assumption that all private schools are high quality, all charter schools are innovative, the drive for profit yields better education, and all public schools are failures. What I see in reality is that schools that can pick their students are more likely to have all good students, that being a private/charter school is no insurance against bad management or bad teaching, that the profit motive is not conducive to education, and that if you askpublic schools to compete on an uneven playing field, they are sure to lose. My concern with the Oxford Foundation effort is they seem to embrace all the bad assumptions, and I'm not confident they understand the system they are trying to revisit. It appears to me they are on the road to introducing "competition" while tying the hands of districts like BHSD behind their backs. Can BHSD raise outside funds? Can I pay additional tuition? Do they have to follow goofy curriculum mandates? Once everyone has competed for the "easy" students, who teaches the rest?
Mac November 13, 2012 at 01:37 AM
Thank you for a fine discussion.
-Elizabeth- November 13, 2012 at 02:06 AM
Thank you Mac for outlining my thoughts so beautifully. I have but one more to add about who teaches the rest, the students with no options, the vulnerable, the ones who most likely need the best, brightest and most creative of teachers. It will end up being the State of Michigan through the Education Achievement Authority.


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