Nate Smith-Tyge (@smithtyge):
While most attention is being paid to Proposal 1 (Vote tomorrow!) and its possible impact on our roads, schools, and local government funding three other issues to keep an eye on emerged last week. I give you a quick rundown of the issues (and links to learn more) below:
Snyder's Detroit Public Schools Proposal: Late last week Governor Snyder unveiled his plan for addressing the structural budget issues within DPS. The proposal is the first step in what is sure to be a long discussion about the future of public education in Detroit and Michigan. Here are the key elements to keep an eye on:
- The proposal splits DPS into an old DPS to retire the debt and a new DPS to actually run the schools.
- The proposal also calls for a Detroit Education Commission (DEC) to coordinate enrollment and state standards compliance across the city (new DPS and charters).
- Local Control - Snyder calls for appointed boards for the new DPS and DEC and keeps the emergency financial manager and current powerless Detroit School Board in charge of the old DPS. Will local control ever be restored in Detroit? What could the possible motivations be for allowing Snyder and Mayor Duggan to appoint these boards?
- Funding - the old DPS would continue to receive the 18 mills of non-homestead property tax in the city and the new DPS would have to be get more from the School Aid Fund to adjust for this. That means all other school districts in the state will receive less per/pupil funding over the course of the life of the old DPS (about $50 less per/pupil for 8+ years). Hard to see how this passes in the Legislature.
- The DEC will be empowered to grade schools and close schools that get failing grades. But who determines the standards? Who determines the rubric for grading schools? What is the process for closure? The devil is really in the details here and if the Chicago Public Schools example (both for mayoral control and placing schools on probation/closure lists) is any guide the results are not positive (based on both community reactions and the research).
State House Education Budget: Also late last week the State House Republicans passed the omnibus education budget bill - affectionately know in Lansing as the School-bus. The State Senate will hammer our their budget soon and we can expect conference committees later this month. It will all be wrapped up by June because Lansing Republicans are more concerned with getting a budget done on time (a timeline they created by the way) than actually passing a budget that works for all Michiganders and not just their fat-cat campaign donors. Here are the key elements to keep an eye on:
- Republicans say its the largest education budget ever, yet they fail to adjust for inflation or take into account the pre-Proposal A days of 1837-1995. Al Pscholka, the House Appropriations Chair, is great at taking credit for being in office when things outside of his control occur - this case being the amount of money in the School Aid Fund due to property values finally recovering.
- The House budget provides small increases in per/pupil funding but eliminates funding for at-risk programs and best-practice incentives meaning that some districts will only see a $25 per/pupil increase when the House claims increases of $137-$299 per/pupil. Say it ain't so - more education funding shell games from House Republicans - I'm shocked, shocked I tell you.
- One is also left to wonder how much more the per/pupil increases could have been if the School Aid Fund had not been raided (unconstitutionally as Nick reminds us) to cover a General Fund deficit created by the cashing in of business tax credits.
- The House cuts the Senate and Governor's proposed increases for public universities to 1% but I can guarantee every member of the House Republican Caucus will go home and rail against high tuition at the state's universities. I think the French call his having your cake and eating it too.
- The biggest issue is that most charter and cyber schools will see the $299 per/pupil increase. Remember that 80+% of charters and 100% of cybers in Michigan are run by for-profit management companies and have an entirely different financial structure than public schools (no legacy or transportation costs and very few special education students, to name a few). The failure to fund charters and cybers based on the services they provide is a raiding of the public education coffers to enrich private for-profit corporations. Every person in this state should be outraged that public dollars intended for the education of students are being pirated to these big businesses.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: In case you missed it last night or don't have HBO, do yourself a favor and find the episode from last night (May 3). In about 15 minutes John lays waste to the lies and deceptions that constitute the standardized testing industrial complex. John shows the damage that standardized testing does to students and schools and how once again the main impetus for this is not learning or helping students but private profit. The more people that know about Pearson Testing the better and hopefully last night's show will shine a light on the sham that is standardized testing (and really the entire corporate education "reform" movement). If you want more, I also recommend the documentary Standardized. Watch the show and/or movie and then get engaged in challenging the testing and corporate "reform" culture that permeates our schools across the country.