LANSING – State Representative Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) expressed his outrage and dismay at the passage of House Bill 4369, which paves the way for more schools to be taken over and run by for-profit charter corporations. The bill now goes back to the Senate for concurrence.
“My communities want and need strong public schools for their kids, but the money that schools have lost over the past three years has made it difficult for them,” said Dianda. “Under this plan, I’m afraid that small rural schools could disappear. We don’t know that a for-profit company couldn’t come in and takeover and merge smaller schools. That’s not good for school districts like mine.”
Legislative Republicans began this takeover model with the Education Achievement Authority (EAA), which has run 15 schools in Detroit with disastrous results. Now that State Superintendent Michael Flanagan has ended the state’s exclusive contract with the EAA, any number of entities can emerge under the State School Reform/Redesign District, operating as many as 50 schools. It’s unclear whether these entities will have a board that is accountable to the public or subject to the Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act.
“People want their school board to be made up of members of their community and accountable to parents,” said Dianda. “But this bill strips local control and it doesn’t appear that these school officials will be accountable to parents and community members. That’s not the way we should run our local public schools.”
HB 4369 prioritizes schools with students in grades K-8, putting the focus on where for-profit charter schools can make the most money. The bill is unclear on how a school is supposed to leave the reform district if performance improves, meaning a school could be faced with an indefinite takeover. Schools already in the reform district have seen subject proficiency decrease since their takeover.
“This bill doesn’t even include a mechanism for a school exiting the reform district once it has improved,” said Dianda. “We can’t just give our schools over to for-profit companies to run for as long as they please. I have a better plan that offers a way for educators, parents and community members to work together to improve schools.”
Two Democratic-sponsored bills, HBs 5268 and 5269, came out of the House Democrats’ School Reform Task Force last year. This legislation would create an audit program for schools before they fail and determine the true cost of education so that money can be spent wisely. After sitting in the House Education Committee for more than a month without action, both bills were discharged to the floor, but the full House has yet to consider them.
“Corporations taking over our schools and making money off our kids is just wrong,” said Dianda. “We need real solutions, not so-called solutions that make profits more important than students.”