Thursday, November 15, 2012

Parents in All districts Should Stay Informed on Education Legislation

Many parents are not involved in the pipeline of bills in the Michigan Legislature and this includes the topic of legislation. In Farmington Public Schools, the status quo is not being accepted and for them, it is a lesson for parents in all districts to take heed. The story below talks about some key issues and a video for finding out more in specifics.

Parents urged to keep informed on proposed school legislation

Nov. 11, 2012 
Susan Steinmueller-Observer Staff Writer
Priscilla O'Neill says she's surprised and concerned about proposed legislation that could put even more funding for K-12 education into private hands and change who regulates schools.
“The fact that for profit schools are receiving and have the capability of receiving funds that should go to public schools, I'm very concerned about that,” said O'Neill of Farmington Hills, and a parent of a 10th-grader at Harrison High School.
O'Neill said she's also concerned about legislation that would give “the opportunity for others to take over schools, and the people don't have to be regulated.
“There should be more regulation for those people because they are dealing with children, the most vulnerable elements of our society,” she said. “We need to protect our children.”
Keeping informed
O'Neill was one of the parents who attended “School Funding: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” at Harrison High School in Farmington Hills Thursday evening.
The free forum was sponsored by the Farmington PTA Council and Farmington Public Schools and hosted by Farmington, Livonia, and Walled Lake PTA Councils. It was designed to keep parents informed about the current and future state of critical funding for public schools.
Debbie Squires, associate director, Michigan Elementary/Middle School Principals Association, and past Michigan PTA president, was the speaker. She noted that she's also an alum of Harrison.
Squires talked about the many ways that the school aid fund is being impacted.
She said legislation that may not have anything to do with schools can impact it.
But so can the voice of people, she said.
For instance, Lansing is currently trying to get rid of the personal property tax.
“The only thing that has stopped it is that people like you have said ... no more taking money out of the general fund without funding a replacement for it,” she said.
She said there are three bills concerning schools that are currently of concern. They are coming up in the “lame duck” session, when “deals that get made that would never get made in a regular session.” The bills are:
SB620: It would allow a failing school to be converted to a charter school if a petition is submitted by at least 60 percent of parents or 51 percent of parents and 60 percent of teachers. It disenfranchises voters, she said.
“If parents or teachers decide to take over Harrison High School, it doesn't say that they have to be residents,” she said. “Those that paid to have it built have no voice. That's a problem as we see it.”
SB1358: This bill would give the Education Achievement Authority, which oversees Detroit's lowest performing schools and will expand statewide, broad powers to authorize charter schools. HB5923 allows for several new forms of charter and online schools, “so a company down the street could decide to start a school and be totally funded by school fund dollars.”
It allows for selective enrollment admission policies.
“This is a scary bill,” she said.
Another concern in public education is that the nonprofit Oxford Foundation of Michigan, founded in 1991 by former governor John Engler, has been charged with rewriting the state's education funding law.
The group is not required to hold open meetings.
The project is based on Gov. Rick Snyder's Education Message Proposals that include: a new — any time, any place, any way, any pace public school learning model; performance-based funding rather than seat time requirements; and that the state foundation allowance should not be exclusively tied to the school district a child attends. Instead, funding needs to follow the student.
Stay informed
Squires urged people to stay informed and voice their concerns to legislators.
“It's up to you to make a difference in the process as it moves forward,” she said.
She said that legislators do listen, whether a concern is voiced in person, or by call, letter or e-mail.
She said that it can be scary to call a legislator, but most of the time they'll be talking to a staff member.
“If by some chance you get to talk to the legislator they don't expect you to be an expert,” she said.
“Please say informed,” said Farmington Superintendent Sue Zurvalec in her remarks. “Let your voices be heard. We absolutely need you. The schools need you. Thanks for caring.”
The presentation can be seen at:
The forum will also be aired at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, and 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, on TV 10.