FLINT TWP. — Carman-Ainsworth Superintendent Steve Tunnicliff added his voice to superintendents raising public awareness about “drastic” educational reforms proposed by the state legislature.
After input from the school board, Tunnicliff expressed his concerns in a letter to parents and community members last week.
“I am concerned about the impact of untested or unproved “reforms” that could negatively impact our students, our schools, and the local control we currently value in public education,” Tunnicliff wrote.
He cited House Bill 6004 and Senate Bill 1358 that would expand an Educational Achievement Authority (EAA) beyond the “lowest achieving schools”.
The EAA is a separate statewide school district that would not answer to elected Boards of Education or the State Board of Education, he said. The EAA could even force local school districts to lease or sell unused school buildings that were built and financed by local tax dollars and should be controlled only by locally elected Board of Education, Tunnicliff said.
House Bill 5923 would create new forms of charter and online schools, without limit or evidence of success.
Tunnicliff said his biggest concern about that is such schools could have selective enrollment/disenrollment policies that could lead to segregation in schools.
“C-A is proud to provide a quality education to a diverse student population,” he said.
The creation of an unlimited number of schools also would further dilute already public education funding, he said.
Tunnicliff ended his letter by asking the C-A community to address concerns they might have to the Governor and state legislators.
In a school board discussion about the reforms, Tunnicliff said proposed legislative reforms threaten to disenfranchise local community controls.
He said he is not opposed to change but school improvement reforms already in place should be given a chance to work.
“C-A has never been one to sit around and do things the way we have always done them but the effort to push things through this quickly that also don’t have evidence of success is certainly disconcerting,’ he said.
At the core of these reforms is the concept of increasing choice, he said, adding if you read closely that is interpreted as increasing for-profit charter schools.
Michigan has been a leader in schools of choice for decades and already has more for-profit companies (44) than any other state, he said. The next closest two are Arizona with 34 and Florida with 14, he added.
”If for-profit charters was the answer to fixing public schools in Michigan, then we ought to be leading the way,” he said.
But it has already been shown that choice is not changing education for the better in Michigan and proposing “drastic, untested” reforms will only serve to further erode public education, he said.
Voicing support for Tunnicliff’s public letter, Board president Patrice Hatcher said that legislators need to hear from parents opposed to the reforms, not educators.
She also shared information from a recent Michigan for Quality Schools press conference in Lansing where state educators, parents and small business owners all spoke against proposed reforms including untested experimental charter schools.
“There are no proven outcomes with them and they are not even held to the same standards that we are being held to,” Hatcher said.
She also criticized charter schools for failure to address students who are the most expensive to educate such as those in special education.
She also said she was particularly disturbed by the idea that these reform schools can come into a community and take over publicly owned school facilities.
Hatcher videotaped the press conference and posted it online on youtube for anyone interested in hearing the discussion in its entirety.