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Unaccountable Corporate Public Schools are At Odds with Michigan

State Representative Jim Townsend (D) represents the City of Royal Oak and the City of Madison Heights in the Michigan House of Representatives.

The message from voters in last month’s election could not have been clearer:  “DROP THE RIGID IDEOLOGY AND FOCUS ON ADDRESSING OUR MOST PRESSING CONCERNS.” Ensuring that our children receive a world-class education is clearly at the top of that list. Yet, the Republicans’ just-released radical agenda for turning Michigan public education into a voucher system, where every school in the state could be subject to a corporate takeover, suggests that they didn’t get the memo from the voters.

The Michigan GOP this week proposed a package of bills that would create an unregulated school system complete with corporate-run public schools and virtually no checks and balances or the transparency that should attend any expenditure of public funds. In short, what Michigan Republicans are proposing amounts to taxation without representation. Massive amounts of Michigan sales, income and other tax revenues, under this plan, could be placed at the disposal of private corporations – who answer to their owners and shareholders not the public – to operate schools without having to divulge to the public detailed financial statements or operational details.

Worse still, local school districts would be required to maintain, at significant expense, empty buildings in case charter schools decide they want the space.

These schools are not like the institutions you and I know from our own childhoods or where most Michiganders send their kids today. While local residents foot the bill, these new schools are not accountable to the community -- or even Michigan's education standards. Instead, they are under the control of an Education Achievement Authority, charged with taking the lowest performing 5 percent of schools statewide and creating what amounts to a "City of Michigan School District" that supersedes local control and elections. And every school in the state could eventually be classified as a low performer and sucked into the authority’s grasp.

Unlike traditional school districts, the EAA skirts the Constitution and has no form of oversight. While the Republican-proposed bills would allow the EAA to take state and federal funding, it is not overseen by the Department of Education or even the Michigan Legislature. The Republican plan would put tens of thousands of students across Michigan into a statewide program run from Lansing. Those countless students would be in a school system that has been educating students for all of three months and, at this time, has no track record of success.

If Republicans want to get serious about addressing the real issues facing our schools, my colleagues and I are willing to sit down and talk with them, and the people of Michigan would applaud. To attempt to push through in a few weeks a sloppy bill that will directly impact our children for the rest of their lives is nothing short of an insult that the people of our state will remember.

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Sue Whitney December 06, 2012 at 11:46 AM
Thank you for this information! Students receive an above average education from schools run by administrators who have taught and have great expertise. Charter Schools are run by a company with a bottom line to make a profit. Making money for the company greatly affects how and what is taught. More important is the fact that many, if not all, of the decision makers heading the company have never taught one classroom of students. That fact affects the quality of everyday instruction.
The Duke of Royal Oak December 06, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Public schools were started because in different areas of the country the schools were teaching different subjects, languages etc. The goverment realized this was not productive to the nation and the public school system was developed. The Republican/Tea Party leadership in Lansing is wrong and seems to be looking for more money making ventures for themselves. If folks want to send their children to private schools there are plenty to choose from. Learn your history, it is a valuable tool.
Mike Reno December 07, 2012 at 03:01 AM
"Drop the ideology" is nice sentiment... but the message does not fit, given that voters left things exactly as they were before the election: a divided government. And quite frankly, if you believe that, then why launch into an ideological rant against "radical" republicans? I invite you to consider that your approach, while faux populist, will have less impact because your points are far too exaggerated, bordering on hysterics. Your choir might appreciate them, but they will fall on deaf ears as the facts about this start to sink in with people.  You will lose credibility. First, it is not a voucher system.  Charters are as public as public schools.  Sending money to private schools is prohibited. And while the EAA would not report to the Michigan Department of Education, it will report to the Governor.  I'm sure you'd agree that the MDE is largely toothless, and the governor faces the most visible accountability of all elected officials.  And the governor represents the people of Michigan, so it is hardly taxation without representation. But what is really at the heart of the matter is whether the EAA is a sound solution.  It has only been operating for a few months.  It shows promise, but we have no "proof" that it will improve the situation. On the other hand, we have decades of indisputable proof that what we are doing now does not work.
Tom Thomas December 08, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Sir Duke, "If folks want to send their children to private schools there are plenty to choose from." That sounds like a great idea. Give me a voucher for all of the tax money devoted to educating my kids and ill use it as I please. Don't use your class warfare and deprive me from the ability to privately educate my kids because I don't have money. Let me use MY money on my kids. A wealthy person can afford to pay for both... I can not. Honorable Rep. Townsend - ..."these new schools are not accountable to the community." When a company has to please a customer, they are beholden to the customer and will not exist without the customers support. In this way, creating "competition" in the educating institutions, competition that is open to all levels of customers not just the wealth or connected, creates an environment where the best of the best are the ones allowed to remain in the positions of influence and power over our precious children and families. Old-school political rhetoric and thuggery is no longer keeping us under the thumbs poking out from the sleeves of their shiny suits.
The Duke of Royal Oak December 12, 2012 at 03:12 AM
It is improper to address a Duke as "Sir Duke". Proper etiquette is to address a Duke as HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS at first meeting, then SIR from then on when in audience. When meeting or addressing a Duke at another audience, the procedure is repeated.

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