LANSING — State Representative Gretchen Driskell (D-Saline) expressed her 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.
“The fact that schools struggle doesn’t come solely from who runs them, it comes from lack of resources,” Driskell said. “We’re not going to see at-risk schools improve until we do something to properly address the funding issue. The EAA has access to public and private dollars, spending on average $17,000 per student, and still has students going backwards in testing results.”
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.
“There is no accountability to the parents in the schools that will be impacted by this legislation.” Driskell said. “How unreasonable is it to require monthly school board meetings in the district? Parents and students deserve better.”
HB 4369 prioritizes schools with students in grades K-8, putting the focus 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.
“Given the poor results we’ve seen so far, I think it’s wrong for us to push more schools into this takeover model,” Driskell said. “We have offered bills that would help turn schools around before they fail, and that’s the legislation we should have discussed today.”
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 struggling 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.
“I can’t vote for a bill that has no local control or accountability on our students and taxpayers’ behalf.” Driskell said. “I will support real reforms to make sure Michigan students get the world-class education they need to thrive.”