Experts support MEA position on SB 618-624

The Senate Education Committee heard testimony yesterday—both pro and con—on its so-called education reform package, SB 618-624. MEA’s opposition to the legislation was supported with testimony from Gary Miron, Western Michigan University education professor and national charter school expert, and Barbara Bonsignore, the Public Policy Director of Michigan AAUW.

The bills support outsourcing teachers, lifting the cap on charter and cyber schools, mandating schools of choice, and diverting public monies to dual enrollment and virtual education programs for private and home school students.

Miron told the panel that charter schools are moving away from their original goals of innovation and local control and are beco

ming nothing more than “corporate or franchise schools” being managed by out-of-state companies. He also testified that charter schools are not outperforming regular schools.

“We have a high enough cap on charter schools. If we open more, we have to close others who aren’t high-performing or accountable,” Miron cautioned. “We need to provide more time for charter schools to improve before setting policy that allows for an unlimited number.”

The research had little impact on sponsors of the bills—Committee Chair Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair) and Sen. Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton). Pavlov contends that there is accountability in charter schools because the community forces it. Colbeck, who sees the current cap on charter schools as artificial and impacts costs and competition said, “I don’t necessarily agree with the philosophy that profits are evil.”

In a news release today, MEA President Steve Cook said, “When are legislators going to start listening and stop granting the wishes of corporate CEOs intent on making profits at the expense of students, taxpayers and schools? These ideas won’t help students. It’s just padding the bottom line of for-profit companies.”

Bonsignore echoed Miron’s testimony when she criticized the legislation for funneling public dollars into private schools where there is limited accountability for how the money is spent and locally-elected school boards no longer have control.

“In 2000, Michigan defeated vouchers because it wasn’t sound education policy. And it still isn’t,” said Bonsignore.

The Committee heard testimony in support of the bills by Dan Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, who asserted that charter schools are effective and popular with parents.