|Who should run our schools – us, or state technocrats?
What happens in Detroit will set the rules for all of us
How would you feel if you were told you didn’t have a right to run your local schools, or to elect a school board?
What if an emergency manager was sent by Lansing to take over your schools, and their job no. 1 was to balance the books, no matter the consequences for your children?
What if the people who were slashing the budgets of your children’s schools didn’t have to listen to your concerns – at all?
This is exactly what has been happening to a number of communities in our state for 10 years or more. Instead of working with local communities to stabilize finances, our State has barrelled in, with highly-paid “managers,” sweeping aside local elected officials, and “managing” those schools right into the ground. Strangely enough, no one in Lansing ever considers it was the State, not the local community, that failed.
Laws passed last year make it even easier to declare that a school district is “in distress,” and starting the State intervention process. After years of cuts to state funding and drains on the School Aid Fund, dozens of districts – stable, well-run districts – got letters from the Treasury this spring that Big Brother was watching them. They had depleted their reserves trying to save programs from budget cuts made necessary by the lack of state funding. From Alanson to East Grand Rapids, from Montague to West Bloomfield, seventy five districts were put on notice – because of what might happen to their finances in the future.
Now we come to Detroit Public Schools, which has been under some kind of State control for 14 of the last 17 years. Yes, DPS’s finances are a mess – losing more than half your student enrollment will do that. Many of those kids just left the city; others left for charters. But it’s hard to “move the needle on student achievement” when you are constantly cutting your budget and child poverty rates are rising dramatically. State control, if it wasn’t the problem, certainly didn’t stop the downward slide.
The state Legislature is considering rival plans to stabilize Detroit schools and “transition” them back to democracy. Read the details here . Bottom line: neither plan is great, and they both give a state financial review commission considerable control well into the future. But the Senate plan is much better than the House version. (The House decided to go it alone after Senators created a plan with a lot of input from stakeholders.) The Senate plan:
puts an elected school board in place much sooner,
limits the power of financial monitors over academic policy,
sets up a system to regulate the number of schools (both charter and local public) in Detroit, and
moves teachers and staff to the newly created district with much less disruption.
While these bills only apply to Detroit schools at the moment, it would only take a stroke of the pen to make these rules apply to any district that was under state intervention. So it’s essential that we decide what kind of precedent we want the Legislature to set.
How would we want our children and our schools to be treated? What rules do we want in place if a school district does need help? How can we stand by while policies we would abhor are foisted on the children and parents of Detroit?
Let your legislators know where you stand. As they hammer out some sort of compromise between the plans, make sure they hear what you have to say. Please use the link in the upper right of this email to take action today!
MI Parents for Schools
TAKE ACTION HERE: http://capwiz.com/miparentsforschools/issues/alert/?alertid=71989626&queueid=11227668141