Friday, April 15, 2016

Another day, another mood swing in our state legislature

Proposed budget would cut free SAT, M-STEP tests | Michigan Radio
"But Amber Arellano, executive director of Education Trust Midwest, said the state needs to stay the course. 
"She said the states that have actually improved their education systems have raised standards and kept them high until schools met them. After a couple of shaky years, they start to see real improvement.  
She cited Massachusetts as an example: The state revamped its education system in the 1990s and is now the highest-ranked state for education in the country."
I'm not sure who has more mood swings: middle school students or our state legislature?

As I emphatically stated to Ms. Arellano earlier this week in a panel discussion sponsored by educational leaders from Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties, she conveniently fails to tell the whole story of Massachusetts, choosing instead to cherry-pick and generalize her comparisons as do many others who support school reform but are not actually working in schools.

First, she forgets that Massachusetts does not have term limits at the state level, a lazy-voter gimmick that has significantly damaged Michigan's political system and turned our House, Senate and Governor's office into a three-ring circus. Term limits are the foundation of a legislative process that focuses primarily on circus politics instead of effective policy-making with the longevity needed to make our state strong. There is no practical way for Michigan to think it can legislate a 10 or 20-year approach to improving public education as Massachusetts did when there's a short-term, swinging-door mentality in our state house.

Second, Massachusetts is a union state but their politicians are not out to gut public unions and destroy the very system they serve -- the public education and future of Michigan kids. The unfounded rage many of our short-term political leaders have brought to the once-respected chambers in Lansing have blinded them to working on effective and consistent long-term policies that improve learning in classrooms across the state. In fact, most of what the State House and Senate have accomplished in the past six years has little or nothing to do with improving a child's learning for the 21st century.

Third, there is unity in leadership in Massachusetts instead of constantly trying to neuter the state board and superintendent as Michigan's lawmakers and our governor continue to do. Educational policy should be the purview of our State Board of Education with the State Superintendent advising and implementing along with local school boards and educators. The legislature should stick to solving the continuing funding problems, especially adequacy and equity of funding, and leave the driving to the experts.

Massachusetts is not perfect, but Michigan is no Massachusetts when it comes to having the real leadership in Lansing that will make our educational system a "top 10 in 10."

Ms. Arellano and others know that.