Thursday, December 6, 2012

Oakland Schools community forums tell parents what Lansing Republicans are up to

     There is no other way to describe what is going on in Lansing right now. They are out to end public education as we know it. From parent takeovers of schools to an endless stream of charter schools, they are out to steamroll anybody not paying attention and they are doing it in the silly season of the legislature. With a changeover happening at the beginning of the year, Republicans know there best chance to get what they want is in the waning days of the 2012 legislative season. Oakland Schools superintendent Vickie Markavitch has been touring various districts and legislators have been receiving communications from parents. The Oakland Press story is below. v v

Parents: We are losing control of our schools

Close to 2,000 parents and community members have attended meetings around Oakland County called by education leaders who are critical of legislation being pushed in the lame duck session.

Yet another meeting has been added to the series that started last week. A meeting is planned from 7 to 9 p.m. today at the Harding Administration Center in Ferndale.

Vickie Markavitch, Oakland Schools superintendent, said despite opposition, legislators still hope to pass the bills before the session ends.

Markavitch and other educators fear that current proposed reform may create a separate state-wide school system under the Education Achievement Authority that would accept any student in Michigan; a step that could dismantle the existing public school system.
They also are concerned that the legislation will open the door to allow a myriad of new privately run public charter schools that could select specific students, thereby discriminating against students who don’t fit their criteria.

Markavitch said parents and community members who have turned out for the series of meetings have been “very alarmed at the direction Lansing is taking around public education reform.

“They are very concerned about losing local control of their schools and losing community focus for their schools,” Markavitch said.

“The other concern I hear from people is the degree to which the for-profit corporate world seems to be entering the for-profit education in charter schools, not just here but everywhere.”

However, state Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Auburn Hills, former chairman of the House Education Committee, said there is no conspiracy to create a separate system for all Michigan students. He said the bill proposing the creation of selective charter schools that would be run only for certain students and discriminate against others “is not on the agenda at all,” in this lame duck session. However, he thinks the so-called “parent trigger bill” that allows parents and teachers to create a charter school from a failing school, will pass. And he hopes the EAA bill will pass during this lame duck session.

McMillin doesn’t deny the bill to create the Education Achievement Authority has become controversial, but he said the new statewide system would only operate the lowest performing 5 percent of schools. 
He said there was some language that could have allowed more than that, but “We took it out and made it only the bottom 5 percent.”

“The bottom 5 percent of schools would get into a reform office with the state superintendent; but for two years he’s done nothing,” McMillin said.

“We need to do something,” McMillin said, noting the ACLU is suing the state because the Constitution requires the state to provide and educate children, “and these kids aren’t getting that.”

“Anything is better than these options of just give it more time or throw more money at it.”

However, in a press release from the Michigan Department of Education, officials point out that there have been many reforms in education approved in the past couple of years that are still being implemented.

“We need to let the system stabilize and decompress,” said State Superintendent Mike Flanagan, before adding more.

Flanagan has been opposed to the automatic transfer of schools into the EAA if they are in the lowest-achieving five percent for three consecutive years, regardless of whether they are making academic progress.

Flanagan also maintains that the appointment of the State Redesign Officer should remain with the state superintendent, not under the governor. He argues that the EAA should not be exempted from any school laws, and said vacant school buildings should not be automatically available for sale or lease.

“I believe there is merit in codifying the EAA and providing a mechanism for our most struggling schools in Michigan that persistently are unable to help their students achieve,” Flanagan said. “However, this legislation includes several provisions that are of deep concern to me and will impact schools across Michigan.”

On Monday, Markavitch spoke to about 500 people in the first of two sessions at Rochester High School. She was joined by the superintendents of the Rochester, Troy and Avondale school districts, who agreed with her that it’s time for residents to contact their legislators.  

Markavitch said there has been an effort to get public money for private education for at least 20 years.

“Their agenda has been to denounce and then defund public education,” she said. “It’s a well-financed agenda and it is succeeding in our state.”

The superintendents all urged residents to contact their legislators.

According to, a system being used to track emails regarding the opposition to state officials, Markavitch said the governor has received more than 2,500 emails; and every representative in the state has received a different number, the lowest being 40 to 60 in areas outside of Oakland County.