This Week & Next (Aug 12, 2016)

Battle looming on school accountability
As we’ve reported, the DPS bailout legislation included clear requirements that chronically failing schools in the city, both traditional and charter, would be closed by the State Reform Office (SRO) if they appeared on the bottom 5% list of schools for 3 consecutive years. With the next “Top-to-Bottom” ranking expecting to be published by September 1st, we’ve seen increased push-back from the traditional school lobby for any consequences for failing schools. First, the East Detroit Public Schools filed a lawsuit to prevent the SRO from appointing a CEO to oversee four of their failing schools. Second, the head of the State Superintendents Association is looking to stop the SRO from closing any failing schools in Detroit. Third, the locals are backed up here by a legal memo from Miller Canfield that supports their assertions (paid legal opinions aren’t very difficult to come by, of course). While we are confident the SRO has the authority under state law to both appoint CEOs and to close failing schools, it is frustrating to see to the lengths to which traditional schools will go to avoid consequences for abject failure. GLEP supports the even-handed implementation of current law for both traditional and charter public schools, as we simply cannot excuse constant failure for our children. Stay tuned as the battle wages as to whether Michigan will get serious about closing failing schools or will continue to accept failure without consequences. Check out this study from New York City which showed students actually benefit from closing failing schools.

Traditional school lobby asks for…wait for it…increased funding!!
APA, the consulting firm which produced the much anticipated, maligned and over-hyped K-12 Education Funding Study for the state, made a formal presentation to the State Board of Education on Tuesday about the study.  Within hours of the presentation, Superintendent Whiston advocated for the legislature to increase K-12 spending in the state, and he was joined by labor leaders, traditional school district and Democrat members of the State Board of Education who called for increased school funding. When you consider that the traditional school lobby is asking for less accountability (see story above) but increased funding, you can understand why the legislature is unwilling to oblige. As you may recall, GLEP has been proposing for years that we more equitably invest K-12 funds in students, and we can do so WITHOUT increasing spending. In fact, our current proposal would result in a uniform foundation grant of $8,600 per pupil while still providing over $4.0 billion for special needs, At Risk and ELL programs.

Another busy week for Judge Rhodes
Judge Stephen Rhodes, the Transition/Emergency Manager for DPSCD, has had a pretty busy week. He’s agreed to extend his current contract, which was set to expire next month, into January of 2016, when the newly-elected Board of Directors for the district will be in place. Rhodes also has been dealing with the issue of the $12 million in rent owed to the district by the EAA. Despite the “understanding” that EAA Chancellor Veronica Conforme feels she had with Governor Snyder that these rent payments (and next year’s rent payments) would be covered by the DPS bailout, Judge Rhodes said yesterday that DPSCD will not forgive the debt. Stay tuned to see how this plays out.

Michigan ranks 34th for education
In light of back-to-school season, WalletHub’s analysts compared the quality of education in the 50 states and the District of Columbia to shine the spotlight on top-performing school systems. Michigan ranked 34th in the country in this report, which isn’t much of surprise. In making such a comparison, WalletHub examined each state across 17 key metrics, ranging from “student-teacher ratio” to “average SAT and ACT scores” to “dropout rate.” You can click here for their findings, additional expert commentary and the full description of their methodology.

Dr. Steve Perry Pushes School Choice at ALEC
At the annual conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meeting this year, Dr. Steve Perry—a liberal charter school leader and passionate educational choice advocate—spoke about the poor state of K–12 education for families of color and those in poverty and inspired the audience with his ideas on how to bridge the political divide to advance universal educational choice. To find out how Bob Marley and Pink Floyd play into it, watch his full speech. Dr. Perry’s appearance at ALEC was sponsored by EdChoice.

Education Reform News Clips

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Gary G. Naeyaert
Executive Director