Saturday, November 24, 2012

Governor's committee proposes shifting funding without improving learning for all

"The thought of such a change has teachers unions and others in public education up in arms. But the reality is this won't destroy schools in Michigan. It will make them better." ~ Editorial: Let dollars follow students, Oxford Foundation website

It didn't take long for those proposing to dismantle public education to blame opposition on "teachers unions." After all, it's really all they have to justify their baseless, politically-motivated proposal that offers nothing to improve learning for ALL students. It merely provides an expanded menu for students who's parents are fully involved in their education, have the assets to ensure their children get to school every day regardless of where school is, and generally enjoy the benefits of living in or on the fringe of more affluent school districts.

It does nothing for urban, poor children, many from non-English-speaking homes, struggling with keeping up in school despite the hard work of their teachers, as these students overcome the daily obstacles created by poverty. It does nothing to provide EQUITY OF OPPORTUNITY for every child, despite their economic circumstances.

To be honest, as I pour through this 300-page proposal, I can't see where it took as long as it did to come up with a draft. There's no substance to it, no attempt to raise all of the boats in the public school system which could certainly be accomplished if the focus was on resourcing our schools for success. Instead, it simply took Governor Snyder's talking points from 2011 and with very little thought or precision, inserted the language into an already over-regulated system. Not much creativity in that method. A few folks sitting around a table in a local bar could have come up with the same plan. It's easy when you avoid any attempt to improve learning for all and just stick with the kids who have parents involved in their lives and the family resources to be successful.

The lack of innovation and creativity is evident in the following statement by Richard D. McLellan, a non-educator buddy of the Governor who is chairing this committee, in a memo earlier this month addressed to the Governor's aids: "...Robbie Jameson has recommended we read "Disrupting Class," by Clayton M. Christensen. Appendix A presents a brief outline of the concepts included in Mr. Christensen's book."  I'm not positive but given the grammatical structure of this sentence, it's telling me they hadn't read it yet but someone on the team thought maybe it might be a good idea.

The very fact Mr. McLellan and his team had not read this before tells you how uncommitted they really are to true education reform. It also explains why their proposal doesn't even come close to creating a new public education model that ensures equity of opportunity in raising achievement levels for all students. Their proposal is simply a hodge-podge of disconnected changes to a complex funding scheme that has inadequately supported an industrial-era model of public education since 1979.

I'll be commenting more on specifics of this proposal throughout the coming days. I encourage those of you who are interested in public education to read the source documents for yourself. They can be found at the following links:

MICHIGAN PUBLIC EDUCATION FINANCE PROJECT