Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Message from the MEA President regarding CYBER Schools

A MESSAGE FROM the MEA President, Steve Cook, regarding CYBER SCHOOLS!
(To take action, go to the bottom of this blog posting)

The pro cyber schools people recently launched a website that targets several legislators who are opposed or leaning opposed to SB 619. This website includes very moving stories of local kids from each legislator’s district who would benefit by cyber schools according to their parents.

Here is the release:
LANSING—Today, the Michigan Chapter of the National Coalition for Public School Options unveiled a series of websites demonstrating the impact that public cyber schools have made on Michigan students. Each of the websites appeals to a family’s State Representative to vote for Senate Bill 619.

SB 619 is a bill pending before the Michigan House of Representatives that would remove the limit on the number of students that can attend online public schools. Right now thousands of Michigan students are seeking but being denied that opportunity. Their reasons range from a desire for customized curriculum or personal access to a Michigan-certified teacher, to safety from bullying and the flexibility to speed ahead or slow down to ensure comprehension.

In one such website, Deanne T. of Macomb, writes to Representative Ken Goike: “My daughter Majestic suffers from a medical condition that is not being accommodated by her current public school. Due to her disorder, she is nearly failing, despite the fact that she was a former honor student, and suffers daily from the taunting and teasing of her fellow classmates. To receive the flexibility needed to complete her studies while receiving the care she needs, she is on the waitlist to attend an online public school.”

Majestic’s story can be found on the website http://www.repgoikemeetmajestic.com/.
More information can be found at www.PublicSchoolOptions.org/Michigan.

We are very close to having enough votes to stop this bill, but the other side is very effective at distorting the truth and playing on emotions.

We need your help. Please ask your members to call, email or write their state representative about this bill and ask them to vote no. Also, please ask parents, family, friends, neighbors, etc. to do the same. Please talk from a personal point of view.

I’ve attached my (Steve Cook's) written testimony to the House Education committee to help with talking points. Also, the MEA Voice has extensive information on this issue and is available online at http://www.mea.org/voice/2012February/2012_feb_voice/index.html.

To write your legislator in the Michigan HOUSE of REPRESENTATIVES, please use your home email accounts! Click on the link below to access an easy-to-use format for emailing your representative!


1) Tell your representative to vote "no"
2) Cyber schools are not proving to be effective education
3) Cyber schools are just a way for corporations to take public money meant for public schools
4) While computer instruction is a great tool of education, it needs to be utilized as an addendum of a live teacher’s instruction;

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cyber School Bill and Dual Enrollment Bills move to the House Floor

FROM MEA "Capitol Comments" -

This morning, the House Education Committee reported out SB 619-623 and 709-710 with amendments that differ from the original Senate-approved bills. Despite evidence and testimony that full-time virtual schools are not an effective replacement for a traditional public school education, all of these bills on cyber schools and dual enrollment were sent to the full House on a largely party line vote.

SB 619, which lifts the two-year, two-school cap on cyber schools, passed with a substitute that impacts cyber schools of excellence. Through Dec. 31, 2013, only 15 contracts for a school of excellence that is a cyber school can be issued by a public university or community college. After that date, the number is raised to 30.

Nine Democratic amendments failed. The amendments—the majority proposed by Rep. Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield)—addressed transparency and accountability issues. One of her amendments would have prevented cyber school expansion until a required two-year report was released this year; another would have required all cyber school exams to be proctored to prevent cheating.

Even though the bill passed along party lines with 10 yeas, 8 nays and one pass, Republicans Rep. Tom Hooker voted no and Republican Rep. Kurt Heise passed.
SB 621, also reported out with a substitute, allows any district or charter school located in an ISD—or in a contiguous ISD-- to receive state aid if they provide classes to private and home-schooled students.

Democrats were successful in amending SB 622 before it was reported out. SB 622 expands dual enrollment and Rep. Rudy Hobbs (D-Lathrup Village) inserted language that requires at least one parent to be a Michigan resident in order for an out-of-state student to take advantage of state aid funds for college classes. Other changes to the bill dealt with course restrictions. The remaining dual enrollment bills—SB 623 and 709-10—were also reported out.

Our priority, as MEA/WLEA members should be to contact state representatives and urging them to vote NO on SB 619. Tell them: Cyber schools are a risky for-profit adventure that will only benefit corporations and CEOs. There’s no evidence that students, public education or this state will see any benefits.

Please use your home email accounts: Click on the following link that will take you to the MEA legislative action site. You can find your representative and email from that service! QUICK AND EASY!


Thursday, February 2, 2012

CYBER Schools! Please email or write your legislator!

Tonight I would like to speak regarding Senate Bill 619, the proposed legislation that lifts the cap on online cyber schools providing for an unlimited number of full time, for profit cyber schools. This bill, as written, provides no controls on cyber school performance. This bill has already passed in the Senate and is currently awaiting hearings in the House Education Committee.

Cyber school research around the country is providing a dismal picture of student performance in cyber schools.

The Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University has done studies that show that students who receive their education solely from cyber schools, perform significantly worse on the given assessments than students who attend classic brick and mortar schools.
At the University of Colorado in Boulder a December, 2010 study revealed that only 30% of virtual schools run by for profit organizations, met minimum progress standard, as compared to 55% of tradition public schools.

Michigan’s State Board of Education has passed a resolution opposing SB 619 siting a lack of performance review requirements. The MEA, the Michigan Association of School Boards, Michigan Association of Administrators, and the AFT have all taken stands against this legislation.

As a teacher, I was a part of the 7th grade “Laptop Teams” when laptops were first brought to the district and I was also part of the Walled Lake teacher teams that traveled to other school districts to help them implement the use of laptops in their classrooms. I have always used technology as a part of my instruction and would not be happy to return to a time when those resources were not available. However, I am also keenly aware of the role of the teacher in a classroom with technology and the importance of having a blend of teacher instruction and guidance using technology.

Senate Bill 619 provides for none of these important aspects of a student’s educational needs. It also appears to allow a siphoning of public dollars by for profit corporations whose primary goals are probably not the education of children. I am urging all of the WLEA members to write their legislators in opposition of this bill, and hope that others will follow suit.

WRITE or CALL the House Education Committee TODAY and tell them to vote NO on SB 619 that lifts the cap on Cyber Schools.

Tell them that:
1) Cyber schools are not proving to be effective education
2) Cyber schools are just a way for corporations to take public money meant for public schools 3) While computer instruction is a great tool of education, it needs to be utilized as an addendum of a live teacher’s instruction;

WRITE OR CALL NOW! Please use your own phone and home email!

Tim McMillon – R - House Education Chair
Email: TomMcMillin@house.mi.gov
Phone: (517) 373-1773 Toll Free: (866) 969-0450

Thomas B. Hooker – R – Majority Vice Chair
Email: ThomasHooker@house.mi.gov
: (517) 373-2277 Toll Free: (855) 866-4077

Kurt Heise – R – Plymouth
Email: KurtHeise@house.mi.gov
Phone: (517) 373-3816 Toll Free: (855) 737-5878 [855-REP-KURT]

Lisa Brown (D) is this area’s representative on the House Education Committee.