I was recently asked to write a guest editorial for the County Press providing insight to the storm of changes coming from Lansing relative to education. My intended message to the community was simple: we may not agree with the content or pace of change, but our charge and challenge remains the same: provide a quality education for our students.
That being said, I have significant concerns with the manner in which change is coming. I’m particularly opposed to HB 6004 (EAA) and HB 5923 (New Forms of Schools). They appear to be connected and in my research represent the greatest threat to improving public education. If the goal of our legislature is to help improve public schools, then they’ve missed the mark. I don’t hear any in our industry who claim we can’t get better. However, it’s quite obvious Lansing is taking an “anything but public education” approach.
Choice for choice’s sake is a misguided path to solving our state’s education issues. We quite honestly are seeing the WRONG SOLUTIONS TO THE RIGHT PROBLEM. Can we get better? Can we offer more options for students and families? Can we use data more effectively? Can we innovate? Can we grow? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding YES. But can we accomplish any of these goals with continued interference, hastily crafted legislation not founded in research, or with agenda-driven lawmakers determined to erode local control? I would say NO. For example, 6004 would grant the state authority to assume control of local school buildings that are taxpayer funded and essentially create a statewide school district. Furthermore, they would be exempt from regulatory and reporting requirements existing public schools must adhere to. Additionally, there would be no local board, state superintendent or state school board oversight. 5923 is equally unregulated allowing entities to create schools simply because they desire to do so. An unregulated flood of new schools into the education market has never been proven an effective mechanism for improving education. Wouldn’t we be better served to research states that have implemented real and sustained improvements with measurable results? Why do we continue to cram untested theories into the pipeline with the thought that anything is better? Why are we considering such sweeping change when we haven’t even measured the recent legislation to see if it’s actually working?
None of this is an excuse for not considering change or striving for improvement. However, in carefully researching what’s being proposed, it’s hard to see the logic when so many details aren’t even being considered. Why the rush? Why the lack of compromise among the legislative bodies? We’ve seen similar mistakes historically made at the federal level where one party dominates the legislative landscape in complete disregard for the views of the other. Great problems require great solutions with input from all stakeholders. Don’t we teach our children to practice patience, wisdom and discernment when solving problems? We must demand the same of our lawmakers. Take your time and do it right.