Ann Arbor school board: New legislation carves 'superhighway' for for-profit companies to take over education
AP Photo | Paul Sancya
The Ann Arbor Board of Education took the Republican leadership in Lansing to task Wednesday in a three-page resolution that accuses Gov. Rick Snyder and the Michigan Legislature of padding businesses’ pockets at the expense of K-12 education.
The resolution chastises the state for pushing through a package of bills in lame-duck session that promotes the “annihilation of public schools.”
“Recent and expected fiscal policies continue to underfund and destabilize traditional educational institutions, no matter how excellent or innovative, for the apparent purpose of giving businesses additional monumental tax breaks without replacing revenue for schools,” the resolution says.
The statement pungently expresses the board’s opposition of:
- House Bill 6004 and Senate Bill 1538
- HB 5923 and its equivalent “super voucher” bill
- The expansion of the Education Achievement Authority (EAA)
- The Oxford Foundation’s rewrite of the School Aid Act
“The Republican legislators continue to carve a superhighway for for-profit companies to take over public education that have no quality standards, accountability or oversight by local elected officials, while simultaneously increasing standards, requirements and unfunded mandates on traditional public schools so as to ‘break the unions,’” the resolution says.
The school board’s opposition statement calls out EAA Chancellor John Covington and his organization for not being able to demonstrate any measured success. The resolution says Covington spent a year reforming the Kansas City Public Schools and during that year, student achievement declined.
The bills would allow the EAA to assume control of Michigan schools in the bottom 5 percent of schools academically. The EAA is run by an 11-member government-appointed board. Eastern Michigan University and Detroit Public Schools also were permitted to appoint two individuals to the board.
“The degree to which the State Board of Education and the local school boards are being completely marginalized by this legislation and the power that is being placed in a very concentrated area that reports only to the governor, I find that extremely offensive as well,” said Ann Arbor Secretary Andy Thomas at Wednesday’s meeting.
The Ann Arbor school board said there has been a massive amount of educational reforms already implemented in the past two years, and the state has done nothing to properly evaluate or gage the effectiveness of these reforms.
The board argues the current bills being moved through the lame-duck session will result in district's gutting programs in athletics, arts and those focused on social and emotional learning, all which contribute to critical- and creative-thinking, high-performing adults.
Trustee Susan Baskett said she is glad to see the Ann Arbor school board taking this step. Other school board members praised the State Board of Education president, Ann Arbor man John Austin, for his leadership and testimony in Lansing against the bills. But Baskett said it was too little, too late.
“My initial thought is that I would have expected more, sooner,” she said. “ They should have given us a forewarning (these reforms were being discussed). As a normal ordinary citizen, I’m thinking are you going to give us a head’s up or guide us or anything?”
Download the Ann Arbor school board’s complete resolution regarding the proposed legislation and the adequate support of K-12 education.