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Dexter School Board: Overhaul of Michigan's School Aid Act Should Not be Rushed

House Bills 6004 and 5923 call for the creation of new schools and dissolving school district borders.

Dexter Community Schools is the latest educational institution to join the fight against a package of education reform legislation making its way swiftly through the committee process in the Michigan House of Representatives and Senate.

The Dexter Board of Education unanimously approved the Washtenaw Alliance of Education's denouncement of House Bill 6004 and House Bill 5923 at its meeting on Nov. 19.

If passed during Congress' lame duck session, the bills would overhaul the Michigan School Aid Act.

"I think we all agree that the system certainly needs to be improved; however, doing that in lame duck session without the proper input from all stakeholders, including the public, is wrong," board president Larry Cobler said.

The legislation was commissioned by the Oxford Foundation, an educational think tank, and calls for several reforms, chiefly, ending district borders and allowing students to enroll in any institution across the state.

Other reforms include:

  • Creation of Online Learning Options with Performance Funding. A student will be allowed to access instruction from across the state using advancing technology. The district providing the online course will immediately receive public funding, based on performance measures.  
  • Funding will follow the student. Under the current funding model, a school receives 90 percent of its state general education funding based on where a student sits on the first Wednesday in October. This legislation creates a system where the funding will be based on average daily membership.
  • Early graduation scholarships. The state would provide an incentive for students to graduate early. Roughly $2,500 will be available for each semester a student graduates early.

The legislation would also establish an Education Achievement Authority board to oversee the implementation of the new proposals.

John Austin, president of the state Board of Education, said the proposed legislation leaves too many questions unanswered.

"This legislation creates an unlimited and largely unregulated marketplace of new online schools, for-profit-run schools, schools run by businesses, universities, community organizations, and municipal governments. It would allow new authorizers to create schools in any location, for any reason, with little oversight," Austin wrote in an editorial. "Nowhere in the proposed legislation is there a rationale for how this proliferation of new schools will improve overall education quality and outcomes for students in Michigan."

Rep. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, said the proposed changes would also allow school buildings, such as Pierce Lake Elementary School in Chelsea, currently unused but still maintained by local taxpayers, to be sold off or leased to for-profit schools against the will of the local communities.

"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," Brown said.

"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," Brown continued.

Cobler said he encourages local residents to contact Rep. Mark Ouimet's office at 1-855-627-5052 or at markouimet@house.mi.gov, and Sen. Randy Richardville's office at 517-373-3543.

Calls to state Rep. Mark Ouimet's office were not returned at the time of this posting.

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