November 21, 2012 Bookmark and Share

Republican Plan Would Corporatize Education System, Dems Say

New authority would create voucher system favoring for-profit schools

LANSING - House Democrats today pledged to stop the creation of Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed Education Achievement Authority in its tracks, calling it an attempted corporate take-over of Michigan’s educational system and an attempt to establish a back-door voucher program.

“Gov. Snyder’s plan is nothing more than a thinly veiled power grab that would put taxpayer money and local control of our schools in the hands of the governor’s appointees,” said Rep. Lisa Brown (West Bloomfield). “His plan to create an expansive Education Achievement Authority is an experiment on a grand scale that threatens to gut our public school system while offering no guarantee for a good outcome. The governor talks a good game about using metrics and measuring results, but when push comes to shove, he is eager to use our kids as guinea pigs.”

The expansion of the Education Achievement Authority under the bill allows for an unlimited amount of schools to be taken over. It permits school buildings operated and maintained by local taxpayers to be sold off or leased to for-profit schools against the will of the local communities, undermining local control of community schools and massively expanding state government.

The proposal comes on top of drastic cuts to public school funding made over the past two years. The Republican-run Legislature has taken almost $1 billion from school funding, or approximately $470 per pupil. As a result, many schools were closed around the state, thousands of teachers were laid off, several districts gutted student busing and many classrooms lacked basic supplies such as paper or textbooks. Rather than fix any of these problems, the governor now proposes to accelerate pulling money away from public schools and into charters and cyber schools, even though voters said no to a similar voucher system in 2000.

“The governor and the Republicans who control the Legislature have already made a mess of our school system. And now, instead of fixing what they broke, they want to smash it to pieces,” said Rep. Douglas Geiss (Taylor). “Schools that are already struggling won’t be helped by this plan. They will simply fall further to the bottom, until they reach the point where they are taken over completely by the governor and his hand-picked corporate appointees.”

Under the Republican proposal, the governor’s new Education Achievement Authority — comprised of Gov. Snyder’s appointees — would take over the lowest-performing 5 percent of Michigan schools. The authority would have the ability to contract with for-profit companies to manage the schools, effectively siphoning taxpayer dollars into corporate coffers.

“We heard testimony in Committee of EEA classrooms with 50-60 children, no support for special education students, and inadequate security. There is also evidence that Title I dollars are not currently available for at-risk students which means the 15 schools currently with the EAA are underfunded and children are suffering as the result,” said Rep. Thomas Stallworth (Detroit). “We have an obligation to resolve these and the many other issues that exist before there can be any serious consideration of expanding the model.”

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