This Week & Next (Oct 28, 2016)

Database: Meet all 63 school board candidates, warts and all
To help Detroiters cast informed votes for board members in Detroit’s public schools, Bridge Magazine, the Detroit Free Press, Fox 2 Detroit and WDET Detroit Public Radio spent two months reviewing court documents, property records, voting histories, tax liens and other public records. Reporters also asked the 63 candidates to answer a questionnaire and to send in resumes. Among the findings:

  • 12 candidates filed bankruptcy
  • 14 candidates lost properties for failing to pay taxes or mortgages
  • 28 candidates were sued for unpaid bills and defaulted or agreed to make payments
  • None of the candidates appears to have a criminal record.

Use the searchable database to see the findings on each candidate, including their answers to questions about their priorities.

Governor’s 21st Century Education in Grand Rapids next week
Members of Governor Snyder’s 21st Century Education Commission are interested in hearing from Michiganders about how we can work together to improve our state’s education systems. To gather input, the Commission has organized three listening tour stops, the first of which will take place in West Michigan at 3:45 pm on Thursday, November 3rd in Grand Rapids. These stops are designed to gather direct input from Michigan’s residents on the current state of Michigan’s education, the education systems citizens envision, and how we can work together to close the gap between the two. This input will help shape the Commission’s final report and set of recommendations, which are scheduled for release on February 28, 2017. Click here to RSVP for the November 3rd event in Grand Rapids.

Education Savings Accounts offer new hope for students and parents
Texas usually ranks among the top ten states in the country in economic performance and business climate. But when it comes to innovation in K-12 education, the Lone Star State is a laggard, not a leader.  A recent poll, however, finds that Texans are eager for their state to adopt a new policy tool that helps parents customize education to fit the unique needs of their children: Education Savings Accounts (ESAs).  Vicki E. Alger, Ph.D. (Research Fellow, Independent Institute), author of the new Independent book, Failure: The Federal Misedukation of America’s Children, makes the case for Texas to adopt ESAs in a new Briefing jointly produced by Independent Institute and the Texas Public Policy Foundation, “Education Savings Accounts for Texas: How Educational Choice through ESAs Create Greater Innovation and Quality.”

ESAs allow every parent to supplement their child’s education—not simply those with the most means. Currently five states have enacted ESA programs. While each program is unique, they share common characteristics. Parents manage their children’s ESAs for the exclusive individual benefit of their child. They are administered by authorized state agencies and/or approved financial institutions. ESA funds may be used only for approved education-related services, including: distance-learning courses, tutoring services, educational therapies and related aid from accredited and licensed therapists, limited transportation services, tests, books, curricula, tuition and fees for public schools or any accredited private school, and funds not used in one year can be rolled over for future expenses, including college tuition. Alger believes that a universal ESA program in Texas, and everywhere, not only would be fair, it would also greatly expand the supply of educational providers and foster more innovation and higher quality in education. We couldn’t agree more, and we’d like to have this discussion in Michigan. Soon.

Navigating school choice: How seven Arizona families found the right education fit
In Arizona, there are so many choices — from dual-language immersion programs to performing-arts schools, classical studies to computer coding, specialty science to animal husbandry. There’s something for every child’s interests. So how are parents making their picks? Raising Arizona Kids asked parents of children at traditional public, charter, online and private schools. Convenience and location were never mentioned. Class size, academics and philosophical missions were. Rarely did parents mention test scores. That’s no surprise to David Garcia, an Arizona State University professor and national expert on school choice. “Research shows that the primary issues parents seek in a school have to do with safety and well-being,” Garcia said. “Even if a school has the highest test scores in the state, if your child is not comfortable at that school, that’s not going to be the best fit.” Click here to read more of this very interesting story.

School voucher program growing in Wisconsin
Wisconsin is expected to spend almost $245 million on private school vouchers for the 2016-’17 school year, up almost $15 million from a year ago, driven by double-digit enrollment increases in the Racine and statewide programs. Overall, 33,781 students received vouchers to attend one of the 209 participating private schools in the Milwaukee, Racine and statewide Parental Choice programs, up about 5% over last year. Milwaukee remains the state’s largest and costliest program with 28,188 students, up almost 2% over last year. But enrollments surged in the other two programs, rising 19% to 2,532 students in Racine and 21.4% to 3,061 elsewhere across the state. “We’re seeing more and more demand for parental choice programs” outside of Milwaukee, said Jim Bender, president of the advocacy group School Choice Wisconsin. “The more parents learn about the program, the more they want it,” he said. Click here to read more of this story. Don’t you wonder what it would be like to have full school choice in Michigan?

Democratic Memo Confirms African Americans Support School Choice
A recently disclosed email memo from Democratic consulting firm, The Atlas Project, confirmed that there is strong support for school choice within the African American community in Wisconsin. The memo notes, “Many community leaders and African American ministers and pastors strongly support continuing this program… Although it has not yet cost Democrats votes, it is extremely important for Democrats to handle their politics and message on this issue very carefully.” This newly revealed memo corroborates a recent state wide survey conducted by Public Opinion Strategies. Their poll results found that 54% of all likely voters and 42% of self-identified Democrats support school choice.  “This should come as no surprise,” said Justin Moralez of the American Federation for Children.  “As we continue to see increased enrollment growth and better test scores by choice students, families from all over Wisconsin are embracing the idea of education alternatives.  We look forward to more Democratic leaders in office adhering to their constituent’s desire for educational opportunities.” More information on The Atlas Project can be found here.

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. Please share the link and engage as many parent voices as possible in planning ESSA implementation for Michigan.

Education Reform News Clips

Next Week (no legislative session)

Monday, October 31

Tuesday, November 1

Wednesday, November 2

Thursday, November 3

  • Student Statesmanship Institute at Lansing Christian High School
  • Governor’s 21st Century Education Commission Listening Tour in Grand Rapids

Friday, November 4

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