This Week & Next (Oct 14, 2016)

National media and ed reform leaders say NAACP charter moratorium is wrong
This week, a slew of national media, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, published editorials opposing the NAACP’s proposed moratorium on charter public schools which is scheduled to be voted on at their national Board of Directors meeting in Cincinnati this weekend.  According to the NYT, “Sound research has shown that, when properly managed and overseen, well­ run charter schools give families a desperately needed alternative to inadequate traditional schools in poor urban neighborhoods.” We’re not aware of ANY newspapers that have editorialized in favor of the proposed moratorium.

At the same time, Kevin Chavous, education reform warrior, wrote this op-ed taking the NAACP to task, Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer prize winning author, recently penned a great viewpoint supporting charters, and our friend Derrell Bradford, NYCAN director, posted this piece on the media attention for the growing rift in the black community over charter schools.  We couldn’t agree more!!

The truth about public funds in private schools
After recent action by the Michigan Supreme Court to maintain the $2.5 million to reimburse private schools for meeting state-required health and safety mandates, liberal columnist Jack Lessenberry published a story on Michigan Public Radio declaring that any public funds used in private schools is “clearly unconstitutional.” If reading comments on news media and social media sites is a guide, it would appear that most people believe there is some iron-clad prohibition on spending public dollars on private education in the state.  This is likely due to Article VIII, Section 2 of the state constitution, commonly referred to as the “Blaine Amendment,” Despite this constitutional language, however, here is a breakdown of the $200 million in taxpayer funds being used annually to support private education in Michigan:

  • Pre-K: $65 million (30% of all Great Start Readiness Program spending)
  • K-12: $100 million to teach ~65,000 K-12 students non-core subjects in private schools (via shared services)
  • College: $34 million to provide scholarships for students in private colleges

The education delivery system has changed dramatically since 1970 (what hasn’t?), and it’s safe to say it’s about time we ended the archaic and anti-religious charade that is the Blaine Amendment. You can catch Gary Naeyaert’s interview about this topic with WJR’s Frank Beckman on Monday morning.

Democrats on State Board of Education members oppose accountability
The 6 Democrat members of the State Board of Education (SBE) this week voted on a ceremonial, non-binding, statement calling for a moratorium on any state-imposed closure of chronically failing traditional public schools in Detroit Public Community District school closures.  The statement comes after a similar moratorium was called for by the Detroit Democrats in the Legislature, and after Attorney General Bill Schuette said the Detroit schools bailout package from earlier this year allows for the closure of poor-performing districts by the end of the year.  The moratorium was suggested by Pamela Pugh Smith and approved by all six SBE Democrats. Republican Richard Zeile voted against it, and Republican Eileen Weiser abstained from voting.  For the record, GLEP supports the uniform application of intensive intervention, including closure, for any district or charter public school named to the bottom performing 5% list for three consecutive years. Period.

The Detroit News endorses Tom McMillin and Nikki Snyder for State Board of Ed
The Democratic majority on the State Board of Education has been obsessed this year with passing its proposed guidelines for gay and transgender students. Led by President John Austin, the board finally passed them in September. This was a divisive and odd priority, given all the other pressing issues facing the state’s public schools. Gov. Rick Snyder, frustrated with the board, has bypassed it as much as possible. Last year, he moved the School Reform Office out from under the Michigan Department of Education and the board, so that he could have direct oversight. A more balanced board would help. To that end, we recommend Tom McMillin and Nikki Snyder, both Republicans. McMillin, Rochester Hills, is a former state representative and a strong proponent of school choice. Snyder, Whitmore Lake, is a lactation consultant and teaches at Washtenaw Community College. She is especially interested in helping children with disabilities. Click here to read the full endorsement from the Detroit News.

MDE seeking parent feedback for ESSA implementation
One key feature of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the new federal education law, is a requirement to engage a broad range of stakeholders in developing state plans. Parents of children in PreK-12 schools are one population especially targeted for such feedback. While parents are invited to respond to any feedback request, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) has now released an ESSA-related survey designed for parents. The survey asks questions specifically related to items relevant to Michigan’s ESSA plan and includes topics such as student assessment, school accountability measures, teacher and leader quality, and supports for struggling schools. Any Michigan parent or guardian with a child in grades PreK-12 qualifies to participate, and the survey will remain available through November 18, 2016. Parent organizations and school leaders are also encouraged to invite parents in their networks to participate. Pleaseshare the link and engage as many parent voices as possible in planning ESSA implementation for Michigan.

What have Clinton and Trump said (or not said) about K-12 Education
If you’ve been tuning into the presidential debates hoping for lots of substantive exchanges on issues like school choice, quality teachers, or school accountability, you’ve probably been very disappointed.  But that doesn’t mean the candidates haven’t had anything to say about education. Want a crash course in the campaign? Check out this video, featuring both halves of Politics K-12.  And when you’re done with that, head over to this interactive graphic from EdWeek, which explains the candidates’ views on education issues in more detail.

Jeb Bush Talks Education Reform at Harvard University
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush discussed education policy on Thursday night at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. He spoke about charter schools, standardized testing, and his somewhat controversial support for the Common Core State Standards, among other topics. The event began on a light-hearted note. “It is kind of fun being out of political life,” Bush said. Bush turned more serious discussing growing economic inequality in America. He lamented the lack of discussion about how to address both inequality and education. “More and more people are being left behind in this time of awesome abundance,” Bush said. “If you’re born poor, it’s possible you’ll never have a job, unless we alter the path giving people the capacity to achieve success.” Click here to read the full story in the Harvard Crimson.

Deadline Approaching for NCSI Art Contest
The National Institute for Charter Schools is hosting the 2016 Charter Schools Art Contest, and this year they’re asking students in to illustrate what they’d like to be when they grow up. A scientist? A musician? An athlete? A doctor? President of the United States? Students are asked to create a picture of what they want to do when they’re older and send it to the NCSI for a chance to win $250! The contest is open to students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Students can use crayons, pencils, paint, chalk—whatever material they want—to show where they see themselves in the future. Entries are being accepted until October 31 and winners will be announced the week of December 12. Prizes will be awarded for the first, second, and third place winners. A special prize will also be given to the whole classroom with the most and best entries. Click here for all of the contest details.

Education Reform News Clips

Next Week

Monday, October 17

Tuesday, October 18

  • Senate Session

Wednesday, October 19

  • Senate Session
  • Presidential Debate #3

Thursday, October 20

  • Senate Session

Friday, October 21

Do you support what GLEP is doing to improve education in Michigan? Please consider making a donation to help us continue our efforts, and all contributions are very much appreciated!!

Gary G. Naeyaert
Executive Director