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Monday, February 11, 2013

More on the Schools

Dear friends and supporters of Michigan public education,
As many of you may know, I am proud to serve as President of the State Board of Education, a panel that was joined this year by two new Democrats: Michelle Fecteau and Lupe Ramos-Montigny. It is very gratifying to work with Michelle and Lupe and the rest of my colleagues on the Board as we confront troubling times for public education here in Michigan.

Last year ended with a very destructive lame duck session marked by Lansing Republicans sticking a pencil in the eye of hard-working teachers, nurses, and fellow union members with so-called "right to work" legislation. However, with your help, we managed to fight off a damaging right-wing education agenda -- for now.

During lame duck, Tea Party Republicans had planned to move House Bill 5923, authored by voucher proponent Richard McLellan, which would have created a “Wild West” of new school creation. The bill proposed unlimited online, charters, and for-profit schools with no quality control, sapping resources and likely destroying existing schools. Bills for an Education Achievement Authority (EAA) to turn around the worst-performing schools in the state were also loaded up with enablers of this new education marketplace. A proposal to finance this new school market with a voucher-like program where the foundation grant follows any and all student choices was floated by McLellan’s Oxford Foundation and was likely to be a major part of Gov. Rick Snyder's State of the State and budget message.

Fortunately, we all worked to call out these moves for what they were: "a recipe for an educational system meltdown."

House Bill 5923 never saw the light of day. Local parents, teachers, school and community members contacted their legislators, and even Republican lawmakers began to express doubts about the plan's potential damage to public education. Snyder walked back McLellan and the voucher-style school finance proposals.

But as we all remember, Snyder said "right to work" wasn't on his agenda, and then it was. So we have to remain active and vigilant in fighting for our kids' schools.

We must be prepared to respond when Snyder and Lansing Republicans introduce their new education "reform" proposals. We must insist on and participate in a vigorous debate. And we must make sure that whatever proposal moves forward, it focuses on helping, not hurting, public education.

To help to ensure a full public debate, the State Board of Education is convening public education forums across the state.
  • Friday, March 1, 7:30 a.m. - Doyle Center, 7273 Wing Lake Rd., Bloomfield Hills
Women Officials Network (WON) Breakfast
Program featuring John Austin and State Board Vice President and WON President Casandra Ulbrich
Tickets can be purchased at www.womenofficialsnetwork.org or by emailing Pam Hansen
 
 
If you can't make it to this event, please stay engaged. We will be scheduling more events in the near future. You can reach me via email at john.c.austin.mi@gmail.com.
 
Or you can follow me on Twitter at @JohnCAustin.

Let’s refocus Michigan’s agenda from dismantling public schools to better supporting them and our hard-working teachers and staff that run them. It’s what the public wants as well.

John Austin
President, State Board of Education
Director, Michigan Economic Center

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