This Week & Next (Aug 26, 2016)

Locals threaten legal action to avoid accountability
You’d have to be living in a cave to not catch the battle brewing over whether failing schools in the state should be closed, which is an option outstate (and a requirement in Detroit) under state law. Despite a call from Governor Snyder to calm down, Chris Wigent, leader of the association representing school superintendents and Don Wotruba, leader of the association representing school boards, announced they will seek any available option, including litigation, to oppose efforts by the State Reform Office to intervene in chronically-failing schools.

These education “leaders” would rather that children remain stuck in schools that aren’t teaching them than to provide them opportunities for a better future in another school. And they act like the state is trying to close any school that hadWigent & Wotruba a bad year.  Nonsense. Every school named to the bottom 5% list has been implementing an improvement plan, under the direction of the State Reform Office, since they were named in 2010 or beyond. Any school recommended for closure has already been trying to turn things around for up to 6 years. Only those who’ve continued to fail are candidates for closure, and the kids in these schools deserve the opportunity for better outcomes.

The question is whether we’ll stand up for kids and try to improve education or will we continue to tolerate abject failure without consequences. GLEP continues to advocate for the even-handed application of state intervention, including closure, for both traditional and charter public schools that consistently fail to teach kids. We know which side Wigent and Wotruba are on.

John Oliver’s misguided attack on charter schools
The news and social media worlds were lit up this week with feedback to TV comedian John Oliver’s segment on charter public schools during his “Last Week Tonight” show on Sunday. Using cherry-picked examples spanning nearly 20 years, Oliver poked fun at what the comedian believes to be lax charter school oversight and financial irregularities in the sector. What he missed of course, which was pointed out by Michigan Capitol Confidential, is that we’ve had more scandals in DPS on one day than what he reported for charters across the country in two decades.  We certainly hope serious policymakers will not be swayed by “infotainment” coming from TV comedians more interested in boosting ratings than in reporting facts.

University YES abruptly closes high school
Students and parents at University YES Academy were dealt a raw deal when the school announced on Tuesday, just two weeks before the start of classes, that it was immediately closing their high school. The charter school began in 2010 and had grown to serve K-11 students, with this year’s senior class the first projected to graduate. The school will continue to offer grades K-8. New Paradigm for Education, the charter management company hired just last month to run the school, made the recommendation to close the low-performing high school, which was approved by authorizer Bay Mills Community College. GLEP doesn’t have a comment as to whether University YES should offer high school grades, but we condemn the abrupt and sudden announcement to close the program so close to the first day of school for the year.  This is not how any school should operate. The students and families here deserve better.

70% of school districts now privatize services
According to the 14th edition of the Mackinac Center’s annual school privatization survey, released this week, 70 percent of school districts contract out for at least one of three primary non-instructional services (custodial, transportation and food services). In the original survey, only 31% of districts engaged in privatization, and the practice has now become routine. Kudos’ to those districts that are looking to protect taxpayer dollars and efficiently invest the resources provided to them to educate students.

Education Reform News Clips

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Gary G. Naeyaert
Executive Director