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The Right Approach for Michigan's Students

This article is one in a series on the National Week of Action for Public Education. Please click here for more.

Video credit: MI House Democratic Caucus (http://housedemtaskforces.com/)

In Michigan, we are seeing a troubling phenomenon that we are seeing across the country today: public schools so starved of funding that students are returning to increasingly crowded classes taught by fewer and fewer teachers, with fewer textbooks and less of everything they need. But rather than investing in our public schools, misguided polices in Michigan and across the states are instead pushing struggling schools further into financial crisis, making them vulnerable to the loss of local control through state takeovers or potential moneymaking opportunities for private investors via for-profit charter schools. 

In a major report released by the Michigan House Democrats' School Reform Task Force, Michigan lawmakers tackle these problems straight on and outline a strong alternative to the flawed school takeover process in use by the state today. PSN Lawmaker and Representative Ellen Cogan Lipton (Huntington Woods) and Rep. Brandon Dillon, co-chairs the Task Force, spearheaded the report and led the press conference activities. The press conference was held as part of the National Week of Action for Public Education sponsored by Progressive States.

Drawing upon the expertise of teachers, educators and researchers, as well as extensive statewide meetings with parents and community stakeholders, the Task Force report outlines a stronger, more effective approach for Michigan’s struggling schools. At its core is a proposal to guide struggling Michigan schools through a comprehensive individualized review, followed by a detailed action plan that will put them on track for improvement. The proposal also calls for a study of the true cost to educate a child in Michigan and recommendations for ensuring that public dollars meant to aid our schools are used only for public education. 

Unfortunately, 80% of Michigan charter schools are run by for-profit entities, meaning that public dollars are being diverted away from already-cash strapped public schools to investors who may seeking to turn a profit. To counter this trend, which is undermining the goal of a high-quality education for all Michigan students, the report outlines additional steps, such as establishing greater transparency in charter and virtual schools operations to provide parents and taxpayers with complete and accurate information about those education providers. As Representatives Lipton and Dillion and many other Michigan legislators work to implement the recommendations in collaboration with the community, it is clear that they are truly committed to all children and looking out for the best interests of Michigan's schools.

Organizations and individuals participating in Task Force meetings include the following:
Parents, teachers and community members

Dr. Vickie L. Markavitch, Oakland Schools Superintendent 
Dr. Yvonne Caamal Canul, Superintendent of Lansing Schools
Dr. Gary Miron, Professor, Western Michigan University
Steven Camron, Eastern Michigan Special Education Department Professor
Dr. Michael Addonizio, Wayne State University Education Professor
Dr. David Arsen, Professor of K-12 Administration at Michigan State University
Anthony McLain, Lake Superior State University President