Wednesday, December 14, 2011
It now looks like the Michigan House will vote on SB 618 (the Charter School bill) this week; perhaps as soon as tomorrow. There are several Repbulican representatives who do not agree with this bill that lifts the cap on charter schools in Michigan, but they are reportedly under extreme pressure to vote in favor of this bill.
Email or call your state representative right away. Contact information can be found at http://msg4svc.net/cdhgi/430108/45/95024/3132/0/S/0/0/wqsy.html .
Here’s what to say:
Urge them to vote "No" on SB 618.
1)Tell them that unchecked expansion of charter schools will hurt your district and your students by siphoning even more resources away from your neighborhood schools.
2)Tell them that the research conducted on charter schools by independent experts, including Western Michigan University’s Gary Miron, demonstrates that children do no better in charter schools than in traditional neighborhood schools.
3)Tell them that this bill’s lack of requirements for charter schools to meet the same accountability and transparency standards is totally unacceptable to you as an educator and as a citizen of Michigan who pays taxes that support public education.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
2)Publicly paid tax monies should not be spent on “for profit” companies that want to siphon off funds that should go to public schools. A public school’s profit is the children and their education.
3)The legislature needs to focus their efforts on providing the necessary support for all schools to provide what research says will yield the greatest results for our children: small class sizes, more and better teacher training, greater parental involvement and adequate resources, supplies and tools for student learning.
4)Increasing the number of charter schools should only come with the requirement for the same accountability and transparency standards that is expected of public schools. SB 618’s minor improvements in charter accountability do nothing to outweigh the unrestricted expansion of charter programs.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
I am writing you to reiterate the position of the Michigan Education Association regarding Senate Bill 618, which is currently awaiting action on the House floor.
The MEA continues to oppose SB 618, along with the rest of the Senate’s so-called “education reform” package (SBs 618-624, 709-710). As a whole, these bills are a collection of unproven concepts that do not help our neighborhood schools provide a better education to all students.
Of particular concern in SB 618 is the unlimited expansion of charter schools through removal of the charter school cap. The premise behind charter schools was that through the innovation and creativity they could achieve, charters would not only be successful in and of themselves, but also help neighborhood schools improve. But that simply hasn’t come to pass through our 20-year experiment with charter schools.
The research conducted on charter schools by independent experts – including Western Michigan University’s nationally-recognized charter school researcher, Gary Miron – demonstrates that children do no better in charter schools than in traditional neighborhood schools. While some high-performing charters may outperform their neighborhood counterparts, that is the exception, not the rule – and the lessons they are learning in those quality charters are not translating to traditional neighborhood schools, either through collaboration or competition.
A cursory glance would reveal that a list of schools deemed to be failures in the early 1990s, when charter and choice experiments began, are still deemed to be failures in the eyes of most observers. The competition created through these experiments on our students has failed to produce any broad, meaningful improvement in the education available to all children or in the operation of school districts.
Since our support of the McPherson Commission’s recommendations in 2002, MEA’s position on charter schools has been consistent – increasing the number of charter schools should only come in concert with an increase in the accountability and transparency standards for those charters. SB 618’s minor improvements in charter accountability do nothing to outweigh the unrestricted expansion of charter programs, often run by for-profit entities that siphon even more resources away from our neighborhood schools.
MEA urges you to vote no on SB 618. Rather than focusing on expansion of unproven concepts, we hope you’ll look to provide the necessary support for all schools to provide what research says will yield the greatest results for our children: small class sizes, more and better teacher training, greater parental involvement and adequate resources, supplies and tools for student learning.
Steven B. Cook, President Michigan Education Association
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
House Educ. Committee votes to lift caps on Charter Schools without requiring many of the same requirements placed upon public schools.
After being on vacation for 2 weeks, today the House Education Committee approved the House version of Senate Bill 0618. This was the bill that was part of the Senate Education Reform Package proposed earlier in the fall (please check earlier blog posts for more information). SB 0618 is the piece of the package of bills that lifts the cap on charter schools that can be authorized by community colleges and state universities. Michigan already has the sixth-highest number of charter schools in the nation. The bill’s critics have also noted that the bill places no controls on quality nor requires many of the mandates enforced on public schools, despite receiving public money.
Democrats offered more than 15 amendments and only one was approved. Those shot down included:
1) requiring charters to provide transportation,
2) requiring operators to show "demonstrated performance" before opening new charters,
3) reducing charter authorizers' profits,
4) putting reporting language back in for cyber schools,
5) requiring any new charter school authorized by a school district to recognize the collective bargaining agreement that
applies to other employees of the chartering district
6) and limiting where charters can locate.
I have “bolded” some of the most detrimental pieces that were EXCLUDED from the bill.
a) Why shouldn’t a charter school have to prove their performance before being allowed to open more charter schools?
b) Why should chartering agencies be allowed to make a profit from public tax monies?
c) Why shouldn’t cyber schools be required to report student achievement just as public schools must
d) If a school district charters a school, the teachers in that school are no longer recognized as union employees and don’t particularly have to receive the same wage as other teachers in that district? Can you imagine how this might be used? Isn’t this just out and out giving the school districts a tool to literally BUST the union? Bust employee rights? Bust and lower employee pay and benefits?
From reports from the MIRS New Agency, the tenor of today’s “hearings” in the House Education Committee were far from being termed civil and once again highlighted the bi-partisanship that dominates our state government to the point of impeding democracy. For example:
1) The House Education Committee has a new chair, who is Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills) and his first order of business was replacing a current Republican committee member, Rep. Holly Hughes of Montague, who has not expressed public support for SB 0618.
2)The following is a direct quote from the MIRS report:
It started with Minority Vice Chair Lisa BROWN (D-Bloomfield Twp.) expressing confusion when McMillin decided not to take up amendments in chronological order.
"Last time I checked, the minority party didn't get to set the agenda," McMillin informed her. McMillin later cut off Rep. Rudy HOBBS (D-Lathrup Village) who was expressing concern about the quality of charter schools. McMillin said that public schools have been failing for years.
That was the last straw for Rep. Doug Geiss (D – Taylor), who blasted McMillin for opining on every amendment and not letting Democrats speak. Geiss suggested that he might want to "pass the gavel on."
Hobbs called the hearing a "charade" and said SB 0618 is "taking a cap off of an experiment. This is not serious deliberation in my view," he declared.
Hobbs and McMillin then scrapped over the Democrat's amendment to have charter operators' information on the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), which failed. This time McMillin accused Hobbs of cutting in on him.
"If your members are going to interrupt me, I'm not going to call on them," McMillin told Brown. Lisa Brown said Hobbs was just trying to explain the bill.
Geiss complained about companies in education just for the profit motive. McMillin said those were "outrageous charges."
The Senate education reform package that still needs to be considered by the House includes legislation lifting the cap on cyber schools, increasing public school opportunities for private and homeschooled students, more opportunities for high schoolers to dual enroll in community colleges and a process for failing public schools to convert to charters.
These will also be considered by the House Education Committee and will soon move to the House floor. These bills have already been passed by the Senate last month and are a part of the GOP’s education reform package and legislative top priorities.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Mackinac Center says lobbying efforts against public sector bargaining "in practical terms means no more MEA"
EAST LANSING, Mich., Nov. 28, 2011 — A Monday story in the Grand Rapids Press brought to light emails between State Representative Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills) and leadership from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, in which the Center’s senior legislative analyst, Jack McHugh, advocates for ending collective bargaining for Michigan’s public sector employees and “in practical terms means no more MEA.”
The emails from early June (available at www.scribd.com/doc/74052346/Mackinac-Center-Emails) show the intense lobbying role the Mackinac Center played earlier this year in the passage of a hard cap on health insurance premiums for public employees. But these emails also clearly show the anti-union, anti-MEA bias that has been a hallmark of the Mackinac Center’s work for years – and the influence they have over politicians like McMillin, who was recently named as the new chair of the House Education Committee.
“The Mackinac Center likes to pretend it’s a non-partisan think tank, but the public deserves to know who they really are and what they really think,” said MEA President Steven Cook. “For years, we’ve been saying that their real agenda is the elimination of collective bargaining rights and the destruction of unions – and now they’ve said it, in black and white.”
The Mackinac Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit that, according to their most recent filings with the IRS, does not engage in lobbying activities. These emails certainly call that assertion into question – something the Center’s deep-pocketed backers should take into account.
“Based only on the limited reporting requirements the Mackinac Center has to follow, we know that foundations representing conservative individuals and corporate special interests have given millions to the Mackinac Center to push policy positions and develop pseudo-science ‘research’ to back up their beliefs,” Cook said. “Politicians who have that faux-research foisted upon them should know what the Center’s real agenda is – and whose interests they’re representing.”
A great example of the questionable quality of Mackinac Center research came earlier this year when a report from the Economic Policy Institute on the economic impacts of so-called “Right to Work” laws highlighted the lack of appropriate social science controls in the Mackinac Center’s research on the topic. The EPI research by Dr. Gordon Lafer (which can be found at www.epi.org/publication/right-to-work-michigan-economy), controlled for more than 40 variables that could influence the results – the Mackinac Center’s work controlled for none. Similar debunking of Mackinac Center “research” is done regularly by the Great Lakes Center’s “Think Twice Think Tank Review” project.
“We hope there is a renewed call, in light of the disturbing language in these emails, for more transparency from the Mackinac Center about where their funding comes from and more critical analysis of the policy positions their research points to,” Cook said. “And we sincerely hope that Rep. McMillin and others in the legislature think twice before deferring to the Mackinac Center’s ‘non-partisan’ expertise in the future.”
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Paul Scott - R, Grand Blanc.......a former Michigan House Representative and former Co-Chair of the Education Committee in the House was RECALLED in yesterday's election in the 51st district.
In Ohio - The state's new collective bargaining law was DEFEATED by the people of Ohio! From Yahoo News!; "In a political blow to GOP Gov. John Kasich, voters handily rejected the law, which would have limited the bargaining abilities of 350,000 unionized public workers."
Monday, November 7, 2011
Waiting isn't an option
I believe that the Michigan Education Association is spot-on with this recall effort. Since last spring, public education in Michigan and across the country has been under assault from tea party and Republican governors and lawmakers. I offer three examples below to illustrate my point:
• The introduction of SB729, the so-called right to teach, which affects only members of the MEA and no other labor group.
• Michelle Rhee's visit to Lansing last spring, touting school reform. Rhee's viewpoints are based on opinion, and no studies exist that prove that basing a teacher's evaluation on student test scores will help improve public education. Also, Rhee is under scrutiny for high erasure marks on standardized test scores in Washington, D.C., and she fired hundreds of teachers during her tenure in D.C.
• The Legislature's cut of close to $1 billion to public education earlier this year.
Public school employees are fed up with the abuse they have been subjected to and cannot afford to wait one more second to take action to preserve their noble, although often thankless, profession.
In response to Brian Dickerson's Oct. 30 column (" Michigan has no time for recall nonsense"): When legislators legislate the opposite of how they campaigned, their constituents have every right to remove them from office.
Certain candidates recently campaigned with slogans such as, "Vote for me; I'm a nerd," or, "I run on a record of cutting taxes." But I know of no candidate who ran on an agenda of raising taxes on fixed-income seniors and financially vulnerable homeowners, plus massive cuts to education. And all this was to offset a new $1.7-billion deficit created by a massive business tax reduction under the pretext of job creation -- with no requirement to create a single job!
Once elected, several legislators adopted this horrendous agenda, contrary to their campaign statements or lack thereof. Fortunately, the recall process is available as
a voter protection mechanism and must never be diminished.
Chris Mikolajczak, Troy
Thursday, November 3, 2011
House Education Committee takes up SB 618 – No more caps on charter schools?
After much debate, the Senate narrowly passed SB 618 and the same debate seems to be brewing in the House Education Committee as expressed by the Committee Vice Chair Rep. Tom Hooker (R-Byron Center). A former teacher, Hooker is concerned that the bill to lift the cap on charter schools may harm traditional public schools. While he supports the idea of giving parents choices, he said he has no position on the bill right now.
The Committee heard testimony from both sides of the issue today. Supporters of the bill think it's time to give parents and students more choices when it comes to a quality education. Like MEA, opponents of the bill see this as another attempt to destroy public education and divert public taxpayer dollars to private, for-profit companies.
HB 4059 in Senate Committee – No more union release time??? No more full time release union presidents?
The Senate Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee heard testimony today on HB 4059which would prohibit a school district from entering into a contract that pays union officials for time spent conducting union business.
Rep. Marty Knollenberg (R-Troy), the bill's sponsor, explained that his bill doesn't end the concept of release time; rather, he said the bill is in the best interest of taxpayers who shouldn't be footing the bill for activity that could be paid for with union dues. Currently, only 12 large school districts across the state pay the salaries of full-time release presidents. Knollenberg was not sure of the cost for the practice.
Wayne-Westland Superintendent Greg Baracy’s testimony heated up the debate when he reminded the Committee that his district had been the target of an illegal strike. He placed the blame for that action on the union representatives who were ultimately paid for by the district to plan the strike.
Baracy said, “I could have purchased five teachers with that money. I could have saved student programs. I support this bill because it redirects precious resources to the classroom and it levels the playing field.”
It was obvious that Baracy is still holding a grudge, but Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) put his comments into perspective when she reminded him that the district had been cited with a ULP for their bargaining position which led to the strike. In response, Baracy claimed that the district was never found guilty of any ULP.
Warren questioned why such legislation was needed if he had the ability to bargain the issue. Baracy responded that he has tried to bargain out a full-time release provision but union members consider it to be a “sacred thing—like MESSA.”
Warren finished her questioning of Baracy by asking him who was paying for his time today while he was testifying. Baracy said, “It’s being paid for by the school district so I can save taxpayer dollars.”
Friday, October 28, 2011
FROM: MEA’s “Capitol Comments” -
Yesterday, the Senate passed SB 619, 621-623, 709, and 710—all part of the so-called education reform package. The bills passed on party-line votes with SB 619 barely squeaking by. The bills have been referred to the House Education Committee. Only SB 624—mandating schools of choice—is left after tie bars to the bill were broken.
Despite testimony and research showing cyber schools are not an effective alternative to traditional schools, SB 619 removes all limitations on cyber schools. Democrats offered five amendments—one to limit the amount of state aid a cyber school student would receive to 50 percent; another to require a cyber school website that included management and third-party vendor contracts; and another to make the student/teacher ratio be equivalent to that of public schools—but all of them failed. Sen. Hoon-Young Hopgood (D-Taylor) chastised the Senate for “putting on the blinders” about the effectiveness of cyber schools.
SB 621—a back-door voucher scheme—allows private and home-schooled students to take elective courses in any private, charter or public school in their ISD district.
SB 622, 623, 709 and 710—which expands dual enrollment—passed after it was amended to limit the number of community college courses a student could take. Through their junior year in high school, students can only take two community college classes, but seniors can take as many as four courses in their last year of high school. Private school students who receive state aid for college classes are included in these bills.
MEA has opposed these bills because none of them are about real education reform. They are about the destruction of public education through voucher schemes and selling out to private, for-profit companies. The Senate has provided another reason why your political involvement is so crucial.
The bills will now be sent to the House Education Committee! Please stay tuned to receive suggestions for ways to make your voices heard!