A package of education reform legislation is making its way through the committee process in the Michigan House of Representatives and Senate that would overhaul how public education is administered in the State of Michigan.
Hartland Consolidated Schools Superintendent Janet Sifferman says she opposes the three bills, including House Bill 6004 and House Bill 5923, and says it's a "dangerous path" that has the potential to "diminish local control on the schools."
If passed during Congress' lame duck session, the bills would overhaul the Michigan School Aid Act.
"I believe the school districts in Livingston County are an example of public education systems that work," Sifferman said. "So to totally try to re-create a public school system under the premise that they're broken, I would disagree with."
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 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."
Sifferman says she concurs with the state board saying the legislation is "moving too fast" and that "none of the legislation focuses on where the need is for where quality new schools are created and it does not focus on how these new schools created would work."
Sifferman is also urging residents concerned about potentially sweeping education reform in Michigan to contact their legislature
"If you value public education," she said. "And if you value local control, your local school boards control over public education, you better talk to your legislatures and tell them you disagree with the passage of these three bills."
The draft legislation was posted online for public examination Monday on The Oxford Foundation's website.