September 23, 2013 Bookmark and Share

House Dems' School Reform Task Force Report Offers Plan to Improve Struggling Schools

Findings address reviews, cost, accountability and transparency

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LANSING - Members of the Michigan House Democrats’ School Reform Task Force, led by co-chairs Reps. Ellen Cogen Lipton (D-Huntington Woods) and Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids), presented their report to help struggling schools improve without a state takeover or being moved into the Education Achievement Authority at a press conference in the state Capitol today. The policy proposals are the result of discussions with education professionals, researchers, university presidents and superintendents held across the state over the spring and summer, as well as proposals already introduced by House Democrats.

The report can be viewed at

“The current administration is too quick to label our schools as ‘failed’ and to use students as test subjects in unproven educational programs, and my colleagues and I believe that we have a better way to improve our struggling schools,” said Lipton. “This task force report draws on discussions with researchers, educators and superintendents who have first-hand experience with improving their schools and delivering the best education possible to their students.”

The task force plan focuses on three areas: community education action plans, a study of the actual cost of educating students, and accountability and transparency standards.

“Experience is often said to be the best teacher, and this report offers suggestions and ideas that are proven successful and take into account the different needs of school districts and students across Michigan,” said Rep. Andy Schor (D-Lansing). “Our proposals will lead to effective school reform as well as open the door to other discussions and ideas about how to give our students the best possible education.”

Proposals in the task force’s report include:

Community education action plans

  • Legislation to strengthen the Michigan School Reform Office by requiring education professionals, parents, community leaders and other experts to conduct a review of struggling schools and the creation of an aggressive turn-around action plan designed to address the specific issues and challenges of that school.

  • Passing legislation to create a master teacher plan with the goal of preparing our best students to choose to be teachers and mentor those teachers now in our classrooms.

The cost to educate our students

  • Legislation requiring a comprehensive study of the true cost to educate a child in a Michigan public school.

  • Ensuring that, as a result of this study, specific needs of each unique school district are addressed and properly funded.

  • A constitutional amendment to guarantee that School Aid dollars are protected and only used in our public schools for education through high school. (House Joint Resolution Z - Rep. Collene Lamonte)

Level the Playing Field

  • Disclosure of the amount of taxpayer dollars actually spent on classroom instruction including the cost to provide instruction in a virtual school over the Internet.

  • All schools — public, charter and virtual — must have school boards that comply with the Open Meetings Act and hold their school board meetings in their school communities at times and places that are accessible for parents and community members.

  • No group with the ability to authorize charter schools will be allowed to authorize new charter schools if any of their existing schools fall in the bottom 5 percent of schools.

Reps. Theresa Abed (D-Grand Ledge), Terry Brown (D-Pigeon), Douglas A. Geiss (D-Taylor), John Kivela (D-Marquette), Collene Lamonte (D-Montague), Stacy Erwin Oakes (D-Saginaw), David Rutledge (D-Superior Township), Thomas F. Stallworth III (D-Detroit), and Adam F. Zemke (D-Ann Arbor) are also members of the task force.

“Our students deserve better than Republican proposals that were being formulated in secret, behind closed doors and with no input from educators, parents and members of our local communities,” said Rep. Brandon Dillon. “I believe that our school reform plan — that we formulated after talking with researchers and experts and that involves community members as well as teachers, parents and students — will put our schools on the path to success, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to debate and pass our proposals.”

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